If you are a leader, what do people feel when you are around? There is an expectation that people have of leaders, that they will be confident, visionary, know where they are taking a team or organization, but also not full of themselves in the process.
What happens though, when you as a leader don’t know where you are going? You don’t know the next step for your church or organization. Do you fake it til you know? What about when you don’t feel like leading or doing your job?
These feelings will come at some point. You will have a sermon to preach you don’t feel prepared for or are too tired to preach. Yet, it is the weekend.
The reality of leadership and teams is that the team feeds off the leader. A church begins to reflect the leader.
Last year, I walked through a season where I did not live with margin. Emotionally I got burned out through things going on at church (a church merge among them), as well as stress in my life with health issues, car accidents, and our adoption. I did not keep myself fresh and found myself burned out. Crispy. Toast. Whatever word you want to use.
Most weeks I did not feel like leading. I did not feel like preaching. I had no energy to give. I didn’t feel very visionary.
Here’s the sad part, it was reflected in Revolution. Revolution feeds off the attitudes of its leaders. If the leaders are tired, that is felt in the church. If the leaders don’t feel like being there, that is felt and reflected in the church. If the leaders are dry spiritually, that is felt and reflected in the church.
One might think, the answer is simply that pastor’s need to fake it, act like they want to be there and everything will be fine. That isn’t the answer, because faking it will be obvious eventually.
What this does for me is reveal what is the most important thing I do as a leader. The most important person I lead as a leader is myself.
So, how do you lead yourself?
First, you must know yourself. What are your limits physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. These are different for each person and will often change as you age. I could handle more physically when I was 23 than I can at 33. As an introvert, my limit relationally is different than an extrovert.
Second, as a communicator, how many weeks in a row can you preach before being exhausted and run out of things to say? For me, I’ve learned that 10 weeks is about my limit. Every 10 weeks I need to have at least 1 week where I don’t preach. This helps me to regroup, helps Revolution hear from other communicators and it gives me time to physically recover. I’ve met guys who have longer or shorter reaches on this.
Third, what robs you of energy and what gives you energy? There are people and situations that rob you of energy, do your best to eliminate these from your life. The reality is, this might take some time. You may need to move things around in your life. I’ve learned how many meetings a week I can have with people, how many lunches I can have while making sure I have time to work on my sermon and to make sure I don’t kill myself relationally. On days that are intense relationally, the next day I am sure to schedule introvert time and work on a sermon.
Fourth, deal with those things in your life that have hurt you emotionally. At the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, these were the hardest months for me since we started Revolution. We had an elder roll off our elder team that was hard for me personally because of my friendship with him, but God was clearly moving him to a new adventure. It was still hard. Then we had to discipline a different elder and ultimately remove him. While this was going on, we were merging with another church. The merge was harder than I expected it to be and a lot of relationships. All of this begins to add up, stacking is what one author calls it. If you don’t deal with these, figure out how to take a break from them, you will burn out emotionally.
Ironically, most of the talk about burn out has to do with physical limits, but I think the emotional part of the equation is what burns most people out.
All of this gets into what people feel from you as a leader. If you are tired physically, not sleeping or eating well, not exercising, it will show. If you are moving further and further away from God in your relationship with him because you are so busy doing work for God and helping others with their relationship with him that you have nothing left for your own, that will show. If you have emotional baggage that you have not dealt with, that will begin to show.
This isn’t a call for a super leader. That isn’t the answer, because that isn’t possible. Instead, this is a call to be real about life. To know your limits, to lead yourself so that you can lead others.
This much is true, your attitude, feelings, excitement as a leader are felt throughout your organization, team or church. There is no way around it. Because of that, you need to lead yourself first, so you can lead others well.