I readily admit I can be a hothead. I have a temper. It has gotten me into trouble more than once in my life for sure. I am also a control freak. Trust me, these two attributes do not play well together.
When I first started out in ministry over 20 years ago, I had a common, yet wrong, idea of what a leader does. I thought leaders managed people and situations. In reality, good leaders understand how to manage self and guide people in navigating situations.
For me, it was a hard truth to learn that situations cannot be controlled and people even less so.
So many times, we get ourselves into difficult positions due to our wrong ways of thinking and misplaced expectations. If we can ever learn the right mindset and how to properly evaluate and set expectations, we will unlock the path to succeeding in our endeavors.To do this, we must develop the ability to manage self. This is more than just controlling emotions. Managing self involves our motivations, our expectations, our hopes, our plans, our time management, our responses and reactions, our interactions with others, what we read, how we think, all of it. It is not easy. That is why so few actually succeed at it. Even those who do find moments where they slip and miss the mark.
This is most definitely something I am still working out. Looking back there are times when I was doing really well in some areas while majorly failing in others and in between in the rest. That is life: ebbs and flows, ups and downs, seasons and growth.
I was recently in El Salvador. We stayed on the side of an active volcano. When you look up, you can see a peak some 1500 vertical feet above. As I was talking with a couple of people who had never been there before, we were talking about how long it would take to hike through the jungle to get there. One of them called it “the summit”. Since I had been there before and actually been on top of the place we were talking about I was able to tell them that is not the summit. The summit is still an additional 4000 or so feet higher and a few miles west. Until you get to the top of one place, you can’t see the next.
Leadership is the same way. Once we think we have arrived, we see there is actually still much more. This knowledge is also part of learning to manage self; the sober realization of where we are and the work to be done.
In ministry, we have to remind ourselves that it is not ours. It is God’s. I don’t own anything, I am a steward working on God’s behalf. That’s it. It doesn’t matter how big the church or the budget grow. It matters not how many books are written or keynote speeches given. None of it belongs to me. That realization is the hardest, yet most important, step in moving to manage self. We go astray the moment we think any of it is ours. Pride begins to cloud our vision and we end up believing that we are some how entitled or deserving. This is obviously a dangerous path for any leader, especially one in ministry.
How do we successfully manage self? Here are some keys that I am learning…
- Practice humility
- Be grateful for everything
- Listen well
- Have clear direction and vision
- Constantly evaluate and adjust
- Never stop learning
- Work hard
- Ask for help
For the next few weeks, I am going to take time to expound on each one a little bit and perhaps we can grow through this together and each become a little better at managing self.