How healthy you are as a leader has a direct impact on the people you lead. The better you’re doing, the better they’ll be doing. Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well. If you’re struggling, they will too. That’s why you have a responsibility as a leader to take care of yourself. Self care isn’t a frivolous luxury; it’s an absolute necessity.
In my experience, one of the greatest obstacles to this kind of self care is a lack of self awareness. It’s not so much that we know we’re in trouble and won’t do anything to address the problem. It’s much more that we’re in trouble and don’t even know it. For many of us, life is a lot like driving a car with no dashboard warning lights – we won’t know there’s a problem under the hood until we’re broken down on the side of the road. That’s a real problem for a leader because when we’re broken down by the side of the road, we take others with us. So, we’ve got to come up with ways to gauge how we’re doing as leaders. We need to see trouble before it leaves us on the side of the road. We need a personal leadership dashboard.
Think of your personal leadership dashboard as a series of gauges that gives you a quick snapshot of how you’re doing. When I talk about how you’re doing in this context, I’m not talking about metrics that gauge the health of your organization. I’m talking about your overall sense of well being. Personally, I’ve defined six gauges that show how I’m doing: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and relationally. It’s quite possible you will come up with a different number of gauges or give them different labels. That’s great! The key is to make sure your gauges accomplish five goals:
- FOCUS on factors that legitimately impact how you’re doing as a leader. In other words, you’re acknowledging the things that do and should impact your overall sense of well-being. If I’m emotionally burnt out, I’m in no position to bear any of my team’s burdens, so that belongs on the list.
- IGNORE factors that might but should not impact how you’re doing as a leader. This is jut as critical – it’s consciously refusing to assess how you’re doing based on factors that aren’t legitimate or helpful. For example, last Sunday’s attendance at Restoration City is not measured by any of my gauges. Like every other pastor, I’m tempted to reduce how I’m doing to butts in the seats and dollars in the offering. Gauges help me fight back against that.
- DETERMINE key questions that define each gauge. For example, my financial gauge is defined by four key questions: Am I systematically, cheerfully and sacrificially giving to the Lord’s work in response to the gospel? Am I saving money each month to be used for future family goals? Am I spending within the resources God has entrusted to me, avoiding debt? Am I comfortable with how much financial margin we have in our lives right now?
- ASSESS quickly and accurately how I’m doing as a leader. I want a quick readout (I use a 1-10 scale) with 2-3 bullet points that explain why I gave myself the score I did. Even if I take the time to write it down, it usually takes less than 5 minutes but is amazingly helpful in anchoring the ambiguous “how are you doing” question in some very concrete answers.
- SHAPE decisions, responses and actions designed to address problem areas. This is where the gospel enters the process for me as a Christian. Gauges reveal heart issues and heart issues always have gospel solutions. Think of it this way – a personal leadership dashboard shows you where you most need to apply the gospel in your life.
Once you use this dashboard often enough, it almost becomes instinctive. When I’m having a bad day, I often find myself scanning my gauges to get a quick sense of what’s going on inside of me. It’s amazingly helpful – I realize the world isn’t falling apart (something I would have no control over) but that I am feeling disconnected from my wife (something I know how to fix).
If you’ve never set up a personal leadership dashboard, I want to encourage you to carve out the space to think through your own gauges in a way that achieves the five goals listed above. I also want to recommend this to you as a really easy leadership development tool to use with others. It’s a great way to focus conversations on how a person is truly doing and then be able to discuss how the gospel speaks into those issues.