This article is from Rick Shallenberger, a GCI-USA regional pastor and a contributing editor and feature writer for Equipper.
This is part 2 of a series on Christian leadership. For other articles in the series, click a number: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Do you know what it’s like to be on the other side of you? That question, raised to the GCI-USA regional pastors in a training session with Tom Nebel (a GiANT Worldwide consultant), set me back on my heels. I’d never thought about it before. Tom said it’s like “having broccoli in your teeth—everyone knows it’s there, but they won’t tell you, so you have no idea.”
Tom’s point was that a lack of knowing yourself leads to being what he refers to as being unconsciously incompetent. In order to effectively lead yourself, you must first know yourself. Those who do (and act accordingly, with emotional intelligence), possess a vital competency when it comes to being able to lead others. This “know yourself to lead yourself” dynamic was illustrated by Tom using the diagram below.
As the diagram shows, the core of who we are as persons and leaders is a mix of our skill-sets, emotional intelligence, and innate wiring. As a leader, understanding this mix is like holding up a mirror and asking, “What is it really like to be on the other side of me?” Tom helped me grasp the importance of knowing myself in order to be more effective in leading myself and others. Allow me to provide an illustration.
Some of you may be surprised (said tongue-deeply-imbedded-in-cheek) to know that I have a tendency to talk too much, bringing the conversation back to me. If someone is telling a story, I’m thinking of a similar one that shows I may not only understand the experience, but have a better illustration from my own life (at least in my own mind!). This tendency (in the language of Tom’s diagram, above) creates an undesired pattern of focusing on the self and a subsequent action of interrupting or otherwise not listening effectively. The consequences do not lead to good relationships.
We all have certain tendencies that, being hardwired into our character and personalities, tend to create patterns of behavior. Those patterns can be good or bad, but over time become so ingrained that we simply are unaware of them (thus the importance of the proverbial mirror). These tendencies and resultant patterns of behavior not only impact our reactions, but also our decision-making processes. And our actions, as we are well-aware, have consequences, for good or for ill. These consequences then shape our reality.
So the reality of the environment in which we lead is heavily influenced by the tendencies we have as leaders. Again, What is it like to be on the other side of you? The more self-aware we become in answering this question, the more emotionally intelligent we become. This then leads to becoming even more self-aware, enabling us to make better choices concerning our actions. So rather than being defined by the ingrained repeating patterns of unhelpful habits, we choose to react differently.
Becoming aware of my tendency to talk too much, and to interject too many personal stories into conversations, made me more aware of the ones I’m involved in. More and more I’m choosing to remain silent because I don’t want that old pattern to be reinforced, or to define me. Because I want to hear what everyone else thinks, I choose at times to be quiet—to bite my tongue and simply listen to others.
As we grow in knowing ourselves and leading ourselves, we will find that our actions have consequences for good. Then the reality out of which we lead will become more healthy, enabling our influence as a leader to grow in the many opportunities we have to shape the church and the other leaders we have been called to love and to serve.