I had a conversation earlier this week with a friend about the importance of self awareness in the life of a leader. It’s a topic I’ve read a lot about, thought a lot about and even taught on in various leadership development environments. I know it’s a really big deal – so many leaders have no clue who they really are and spend their whole lives impersonating other leaders whose results they admire. It’s an exhausting, unfulfilling and destabilizing way to lead because you’re always faking it and wondering if anyone is noticing. Self awareness frees us to lead more passionately, authentically and naturally.
As the conversation progressed, we started to focus in on the importance of a leader knowing their weaknesses. This honestly wasn’t new territory for me – none of us are perfect, we all have weaknesses and team leadership is essential. But as we were reviewing this familiar territory, I was struck with the realization of just how much I had paid lip service to this idea for years without genuinely accepting my weaknesses. For the record, there are few things as disingenuous as faking self awareness!
I would talk about my weaknesses but that was usually just a tool to get others to open up about theirs. In my heart of hearts, I believed that while I was better at some things than others, I was at least above average at everything. That underlying belief showed up in my leadership: I kept too much on my plate that should have been delegated to others, I made excuses to hide my weaknesses, and I would occasionally bully others into accepting my bad ideas. I was on the road to becoming a delusional, egomaniac control freak because I was convinced people wouldn’t follow me if they figured out I wasn’t perfect. My fear of rejection had me on a path that would kill my leadership life.
As my understanding of the gospel deepened, so did my capacity for self awareness. The link between the gospel and self awareness is why I honestly believe followers of Jesus should be the best leaders in any organization. At the very least, we should be the most self aware.
As Christians, we swim in a sea of grace, acceptance and love that flows from Jesus’ perfection to our weakness. The more I learned about God’s grace, His love for me and my standing in Christ, the easier it became to admit my weaknesses to others. God knows all of my flaws and still loves me. That simple understanding allowed me to find the confidence I needed to be more honest with myself and others about my limitations. The gospel makes it okay to not have life completely together. If you don’t have to fake it with God, why bother faking it with anyone else?
I’m learning how to lead in light of who I am, what God has called me to do and how He’s wired me. It’s more fulfilling, enjoyable and fun than I ever would have imagined when I was busy maintaining an image.
But what about you? Are you trying to be someone you aren’t because you’re afraid people won’t love you if they find out you aren’t perfect? Guess what…they already know! They’re just waiting for you to catch up. As you do, you’ll be a much better, happier and fulfilled leader.