Personal Leadership Dashboard

dashboard

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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Owning Our Weaknesses

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.