We all have moments, as leaders, when we want to give it up. Maybe you just want to hide after someone critiques your event or questions your decisions, when you're weary from holding others up as they fall apart, or when you feel dry and disconnected from God even as you give it all to serve him.
When those moments come, all I want is a one-way ticket out of my zip code–and a really long nap. But what I truly need in those times is something to cling to when leadership gets tough. And it's in these moments when I ask myself, "Why am I doing this, anyway?"
The reminder of the "why" is what every leader needs. The "why" is an important, sometimes scary question to ask ourselves. The "why" re-centers us on what got us into leadership in the first place. And whether your leadership influence is over a small group that meets in your home or a large, complicated organization, moments of disillusionment are also opportunities to clarify our vision. Here are a few things to remember when you need to refresh your "why."
Leadership Operates in the Background
This seems like a paradoxical truth. Leaders are the upfront ones, right? Leaders get all the glory (and fallout), right? True, but in reality, 95 percent of a leader's time is spent quietly making things happen. The 5 percent that we spend in the spotlight is the part that is often criticized. Remember that the vast majority of your time is spent doing things that aren't up for critique. The phone call you made to your hurting volunteer. The note of encouragement you sent to that new believer. The time you made for the younger leader who was frustrated and discouraged. These are the moments that make a leader, and they remind us that we lead so that others might have footprints to follow. Pay attention to the background work, and allow yourself to celebrate the quiet work that defines a servant leader.
A young leader came to me last week to show me an email. In it the person gave a full critique of the way everything operates in this leader's ministry–after only attending one event. This leader's natural response was to either defend himself over email or ignore it all together. And that's my natural response too! But I've learned that there can be some satisfaction in facing our critics and taking opportunities to shape the culture around us. We often underestimate our ability to remove the toxins of our environment through our own words and actions. In that moment, I encouraged my friend to be a spiritual leader–to answer the email with warmth, to avoid defensiveness, and to share his own heart in a way that could help this critic see the vision behind our own ministry's "why." It doesn't always work–some people's natural setting is complaint. But as leaders, our reaction to those complaints allows us to proactively create a culture of warmth, strength, and vision.