In many leadership circles, the leader looks for the problem, identifies it and takes action. Though this may be what's needed in some situations, the “If it looks like a nail, it must need a hammer” mentality for leadership may not always get us the results we’re looking for.
In every sphere of influence - work, home, church, or social - there is an emotional system in place. The successful leader has learned how to recognize the system and operate within it in a healthy way. Peter Steinke, in his book Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times explains it like this: “Anxiety alone will not harm or endanger a system. How anxiety is addressed will determine outcome more than anything. Your responsible and enlightened behavior will influence the situation more than any other action.” Effective leadership begins with leading oneself. Are we reactive within the emotional system or are we looking within ourselves, examining our inner man through our connection with the Spirit of God? Most of us are unaware of how we affect those around us or don’t care. However, we are called to be a non-anxious presence (John 16:33), seeking wisdom and clarity from the Lord in every situation. We may think we know how to do that, but we might need some help with personal awareness. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do the people around me hide information for fear of how I might react?
Is reactivity my go-to in anxious situations?
Do I alter my behavior because I know I will react negatively?
If you identify with any of the statements above, I’d like to help you pinpoint a pathway towards health and it starts with a tough exercise that will lead you to awareness. If you are unaware, it’s impossible to change. Here’s the exercise:
Ask those close to you the following question: What has it been like being around me lately? No response from you is necessary, nor is it recommended - just listen. Defensiveness will only affirm you are not ready for the answer. If you get no answer at all, ask this follow-up question: Do you feel safe enough to answer that question honestly? If the answer is NO, now you are aware. Don’t take the conversation any further. You have some inner work to do, but you can trust Jesus to walk you through it. Humility is the pathway to transformation.