Leadership is an Inside-Out Job!
Haley Schurz has lived in Southern Africa for the last 23 years as a missionary with her husband Walker and her 2 children. She and her husband pastor Miracle Life Family Church in Lusaka, Zambia. During the last 13 exciting years since moving to Zambia, Miracle Life has seen its membership grow from 800 to 4200 people and is touching a nation for Jesus. She also is the Director for Rhema Zambia that trains hundreds of men and women for ministry and kingdom impact. Gifted as a leader and with an urgent sense of purpose and getting things done, Haley has a deep passion to see people grow into maturity and step into their God-given destiny.
Haley recently completed a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from the Townsend Institute at Huntington University. She has an unwavering commitment to raising a generation of godly leaders that will leave a legacy of kingdom effectiveness on the African continent. Haley has been married to Walker for 26 years. They have two adult children who now live in the US—Timothy and Jessica. Haley graduated from Rhema Bible Training College USA in 1991. You can contact Haley at www.mlfc.org.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead people from where they are to God’s intended destination for their life. This is done with God and us as His representatives on the earth. Our troubled world is demanding better leadership, but far too often, leaders are battling their own internal troubles.
The Responsibility of Leadership
Many aspire to leadership, but do not understand the privilege, responsibility, and stakes of it. Romans 12:8 tells those who have been given the gift of leadership to “lead with diligence.” Before leading others with diligence, a leader must successfully lead themselves.
Paul told Timothy, a leader, to “take heed to yourself.” As a leader, I have a deep sense of responsibility and conviction for what God has entrusted to me. With this profound call to leadership, we must prioritize the leadership of ourselves over the leadership of others. Leaders must engage in the process of self-leadership, self-development, and self-discovery because not doing so has serious implications for those around them. As church leaders, we must master leadership within, because leaders ultimately lead according to “who they are.”
The Most Important Person You Will Ever Lead
You are the most important person you will ever lead, and you will most likely be the most challenging one as well. You know your weaknesses, temptations, struggles and bad habits. If leaders are unwell, weary, or discouraged, their followers will suffer. Consequences of leading without wholeness are destructive, especially to those who follow. Unless we are giving attention to what is going on in our heart, our insides can trip us up as leaders. God’s design for us is to thrive from the inside out in our leadership.
Many leaders start out well using their strengths, gifts, talents, and charisma. These traits create a following. Too much dependence on these strengths and gifts can blindside a leader to some glaring internal weaknesses. Ultimately, the outside traits aren’t enough to handle the ever-growing personal dysfunctions.
Significance of the Leader’s Insides
Many leaders have mastered outside performance capabilities, but have neglected the inner dynamics that provide support for success. As Christian leaders, we are only as strong as our foundation, and we must deal with the imperfections of our lives. Serious flaws in a leader’s foundation will always compromise the integrity of what the foundation was intended to support. Poor character starts small and can become a debilitating problem. Dr. Henry Cloud states that “Leaders do not always make the connection between their personal issues and their leadership.” As leaders, it is our responsibility to ‘take heed to ourselves’ as Paul told Timothy.
Rarely does a church leader fail because he is a poor preacher, non-relational, or incompetent. Typically, church leaders fail over complications that have to do with character. The little and hidden things are compromised, and over time, they undermine integrity. The people we serve as leaders have the right to expect the highest level of honesty, righteousness, and respect. Anything that doesn’t uphold a righteous standard is a compromise.
As a young leader, David led his troops into battle and found great favor on the battlefield. But one day after fighting, he and his men return home to Ziklag only to discover that his campsite is destroyed and the women and children have been captured. David’s men were angry and were speaking of stoning him. He probably felt alone and rejected. David responded well in his leadership crisis, and he recognized that he needed to lead himself before he could lead his troops. “David strengthened himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6). He understood the value of introspection and reflection. David also looked to God as the source of his inner strength.
Self-Leadership of Character
Our ability to grow as a leader is based on our ability to grow as a person. Leaders who give attention to self-leadership are aware of problems and inconsistencies in their life.
Self-leadership begins with self-awareness. Self-awareness is about understanding your own needs, aspirations, habits, shortcomings and anything else that motivates you. This lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust. It explains our successes and our failures. Daniel Goldman, in his book Primal Leadership, says “Leaders high in emotional self-awareness are attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their job performance. Leaders with high self-awareness typically know their strengths and limitations and exhibit a gracefulness in learning where they need to improve.”
Preserving a Leader’s Character
The processes and experiences of leadership can negatively affect a leader’s heart, soul, mind, and body. There are experiences of great joy and satisfaction as well as experiences of disappointment and pain. Christian leaders must have a “preventive care” plan for their insides so they can contend with the demands of leading on the outside.
Consider the following biblical health tips to maintain your internal life as a leader:
Maintain a Devotional Life with God
Jesus regularly left the crowds to spend time alone with the Father. Leaders caring for themselves schedule a consistent time to pray, journal and read. Nurturing a relationship with our Father and staying sensitive to His spirit keeps us dependent on God. Daily acknowledging how needy we are propels us to share with others the grace we are receiving from our Father.
Cultivate Deep Relationships with Others
There is great power in relational connectedness. How well you do in life is linked to who is doing life with you. Even Jesus demonstrated the need for connection when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane. He took Peter, James, and John with him while he wrestled with his soul and prayed about what was ahead of him. Jesus said in Matthew 26:36-38 “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Ensure you have genuine friends who give you truth and grace—regardless of what you face, you will not be alone.
Be Intentional About Your Personal Development
Personal development is necessary to grow our capacities for the work God continues to add to us as leaders. Development requires focus, intentionality, accountability and a plan. It is vital to look for ways to receive feedback from others who are already experts in the areas you are endeavoring to grow.
Let’s face it; if you’re a leader, you’re in the battle of your life. But in that battle, we must choose joy and embrace laughter. Discover activities that replenish your soul and bring you great satisfaction. Invite people into your life who add to your joy and can laugh with you and at times laugh at you. “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’” (Psalm 126:2).
The longer I lead, the more I am convinced that the health of a leader’s internal life ultimately determines a leader’s true success. The leader’s inner journey is critical to their effectiveness in leading. A leader must make the connection between the health of their heart and the outcomes of their external leadership.