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The Problem with Being an Authentic Leader

The delicate balance of authenticity and confidentiality in leadership.

As we look at the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul make themselves vulnerable. Jesus confided to Peter, James, and John about how distressed he was in light of facing the cross (Matthew 26:37–38). Perhaps the most famous example of Jesus’ emotional authenticity is his response to the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35). He also allowed others to see his passion for his Father’s house (John 2:13–17), his frustration with the faithlessness of man (Luke 9:41), and his sorrow over the rejection of the Jewish people (Luke 19:41–42). Likewise, Paul frequently mentioned his own depravity and his feelings of longing and suffering (2 Corinthians 12:6–10; 1 Timothy 1:15–16; 2 Timothy 1:4). These examples propagate humility rather than weakness.

Christ’s example of both emotional and strategic authenticity shows us how utilizing this method of leadership need not leave us in a state of internal duplicity. Rather, we are more careful in how we relate to others, placing God’s kingdom above our need to relieve our emotional pressure valve. There are times, of course, that as good leaders we should share our feelings. To determine when it’s appropriate, I consider these five questions:

  1. Am I sure that by sharing I would not break any confidentiality?
  2. Am I sure I’m not sharing out of pride, frustration, anger, or fear?
  3. Will sharing help others grow closer to Christ or to other believers?
  4. Can others learn from my experience?
  5. Can I gain insight from others by sharing?

If I can answer “yes” to all of these questions, then I’m happy to share more vulnerably about how I’m feeling. I also follow these dos and don’ts for sharing effectively:

Do: Take time to think and pray through the situation. Examine your situation and see how sharing versus not sharing will help or hurt your goal for your ministry.

Do: Have a godly mentor outside of your ministry (or church) to give you perspective.

Do: Think ahead about what you are going to say.

Do: Use feeling words. Your emotions are valid and it’s okay to let others know you are disappointed or frustrated in a situation. But remember to use those times to talk about how you see God at work in the situation.

Don’t: Talk negatively about others.

March30, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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