Know yourself to lead well

This summer, I learned a lot about how to lead with vulnerability through a process of recognizing my own imperfection. To lead others, we must first know how to lead ourselves. Only after we can identify our brokenness can we point others to Christ in leadership.

Introspection of this sort is hardly new. Today’s culture is obsessed with figuring people out. We take Myers-Briggs and Enneagram tests repeatedly, trying to figure out who we are and how to find success. Although personality types may give us some idea of who we are superficially, they fall short when it comes to self-actualization. Four letters might connect us, but our preoccupation with defining ourselves has left our culture stuck on external appearances.

In his book Adventure and the Way of Jesus, Dr. Greg Robinson discusses a cycle of learning, growing, and grief. This cycle has changed my perspective on how life and leadership work. Jesus is doing things in us that are simultaneously exciting and difficult. This learning cycle is happening constantly, whether we recognize it or not. It happens on small scales and large scales. Sometimes it takes minutes, and sometimes it takes years. No matter the scale, we need to pay attention to the truths that God is teaching us through learning, growing, grieving, and eventually leading.

The first stage of this cycle is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is our place of comfort: a place where we feel safe. This is our neutral state, and it’s home. We like resting in homeostasis for as long as possible.

The next stage in the cycle is disruption. Here something changes. Suddenly, our safe place is gone. Disruption comes from anywhere: a change in location, a new friendship, a dynamic family situation, or a rough set of grades.

Next comes the stage of chaos. At this point, we no longer know what to do with ourselves or how to function the way we did before. We’re not comfortable, and all we can focus on is how much we want our comfort back. It hurts, and we don’t like it. Here, our human nature tries to short-circuit the system and go back to our old place of homeostasis, however broken it may be. It seems easier, but the problem is that our old habits don’t work anymore. Homeostasis isn’t best.

What must happen next is easily the hardest step of the process. Rather than staying stuck in chaos, we must choose to let go.  Letting go means losing control, stepping back, and allowing God to work in you before you aim at your own plans, hopes or dreams. Letting go means choosing vulnerability. It means being okay with moving on. It’s almost unbearably difficult, but this step changes everything. Here at our lowest and most broken point, our sweet Savior, Jesus, continues to shower us with grace upon grace, and His provision is wholly sufficient (John 1:16, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

When we let go we move towards the best phase: learning. This phase isn’t easy, but it is good. We learn the most in our brokenness. This is the kind of learning that sticks around.

Finally, we return to homeostasis. Once again, we’ve arrived at comfort. This time, however, we aren’t the same.  We’ve stretched to reach this new homeostasis.  We’ve been broken, but now we’re more like Jesus. We’ve walked by His grace. We are healed, but we’re still in a process of becoming.

I want to leave you with a challenge: Never stop learning. Choose to let go. Make Jesus your only place of refuge. Psalm 46 tells us that He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the chaos. He doesn’t promise us ease, but He does promise that He will lead us through the darkest valleys into restoration for the sake of His glory (Psalm 23). Don’t lose hope. God is faithful.

Coplea Donley – Contributor