Self-leadership is my most significant challenge of any sort of leadership. In order to be effective at family, team or organizational leadership, adequate self-leadership is a non-negotiable.
There are many facets to self-leadership—always being a learner, constantly acquiring skills and practices for increased effectiveness, understanding people better, and developing as a strategist and implementer. However, before all of those—foundational to everything else you are and will ever do—is the daily practice of walking with God in authentic intimacy. Quite frankly, I have found this to be the greatest challenge of self-leadership.
We can fake things for a while. We can run on spiritual fumes for a season. We can be quite adept at putting on a mask of spiritual respectability. But, we are only on borrowed time if we do not feed our soul, allow God to challenge and transform us, and daily walk the life of risk-taking crazy faith. King David learned this the hard way. After his wayward escapade with Bathsheba and eventually coming face-to-face with the ugliness of his sin, he recognized what he was missing. It is delineated in Psalm 51. Remember verse 10? “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David finally understood that fallen people inadvertently slip away from God where intentional intimacy is overlooked.
I have been in the role of leading Converge missions for five years. I’m deeply privileged to do this. I would be untruthful, however, if I told you it was easy. And it’s not easy spiritually, either. As a pastor (and I loved being a pastor), I would spend two hours a day in the Word seeking God for spiritual truths I could pass along. As I did this, I was changed and transformed weekly. I met God again and again in astounding ways. Besides this, I would see the fruit of my work all the time—people changed, families renewed, new births weekly, kudos and warm fuzzies from congregants. Not anymore. I rarely see what my work produces and will need to wait until eternity to have even a close idea. I also find it extremely challenging to find time to bask in the Word and let God speak to me deeply. So much has changed. It is stretching me.
This may be a little of a confession time. I have not figured out a good rhythm of self-leadership in this unique role I’m in. I’m working on it and I’m committed to it, though, because I know that it is essential. I will never become who God intends for me without exercising this dimension of self-leadership. I will never accomplish what God intends for me to accomplish without living with an ongoing spiritual vitality. Neither will you.
Gary Thomas has written a book called “Sacred Pathways” in which he presents nine primary ways that people significantly connect with God. Those pathways are described as the Naturalist, Sensate, Traditionalist, Ascetic, Activist, Caregiver, Enthusiast, Contemplative, and Intellectual. We each have at least one primary and one secondary way that we worship and are transformed by God.
I have learned that if I regularly engage in my two primary sacred pathways as an Intellectual and Naturalist, it elevates the quality of my self-leadership significantly. I find myself regularly transformed by my interactions with God. It changes my life, always for the better. Knowing this, it then becomes a matter of personal discipline to be sure I regularly engage in these types of experiences with the Lord.
I encourage you to discover your sacred pathways and engage regularly in those. Lead yourself well. It sets you up for raving success in every other arena of life.