You may have read the title to this article and thought, I already know who the toughest person to lead is. He is one of our church members who calls me all the time, but never shows up to help out at the church. He always has a problem with something but never heeds my counsel.
That church member may be difficult to lead, but if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the toughest person to lead is self. The toughest person you will ever lead is you. Although that church member may be running close to second, the greatest enemy you will face while trying to lead God’s people is that of first leading yourself.
The toughest person to lead is self.
Let’s take a look at two reasons why the toughest person to lead is self, then we will study practical truths that will help you lead yourself so that you can be most effective in leading others.
We don’t see ourselves as we see others. It is a universal truth that people seldom see themselves realistically. The Bible reminds us many times not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think because God knew we would have an idealistic view of ourselves. Instead of viewing ourselves in this manner, we ought to pray as the Psalmist prayed when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.”
We are harder on others than we are on ourselves. Does this match the old saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? The answer is no. We tend to be strict with others, but we are quick to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. If we come in Monday morning a little late, we may justify it because we know what a trying week we had in ministry. If another staff member, however, is late to work, would we give him the same benefit of the doubt? We tend to judge others according to their actions and judge ourselves according to our intentions.
How to lead self
We have learned that the toughest person to lead is self, but is there a way to better our leadership of self? These next few steps on how to lead self are simple, yet very important. If we do not grasp and practice a disciplined leadership over self, then we will never be able to grasp successful leadership over others.
First, learn followership. Fulton J. Sheen remarked, “Civilization is always in danger when those who have never learned to obey are given the right to command.” Only a leader, who has followed well, knows how to lead others well. If you are working under a pastor, follow the calling God has given to him. If you are pastoring, follow the Heavenly Father’s prodding. We all are to follow, and if we expect members of the church to one day follow our example, we must learn how to first practice followership. Has there been a time recently when you were asked to follow, but you hesitated or thought of an excuse of why you could not? Remember that God teaches us lessons He wants us to teach others. Learn followership.
Second develop self-discipline. When we are foolish, we want to conquer the world. When we are wise, we want to conquer ourselves. This begins when we do what we should, no matter how we feel about it. Working in a ministry we enjoy is a gift from God, but certain areas of ministry may not be very enjoyable. No matter our ‘feelings’ we ought to do the Lord’s work, because it is the Lord’s work. British essayist John Foster said: “A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself. He belongs to whatever can make a captive of him.” May we not be Christians made captive by our schedules or demands, but may we be made captive by the presence of God. And, may we continue to develop a self-discipline that keeps us in His presence doing His work His way.
Third, practice patience. Few worthwhile things in life come quickly. James said, “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Patience is a virtue that requires work. Impatiently, we may tend to look at the finish line ahead, and go full throttle towards that finish line. A good leader understands that the point of leadership is not to cross the finish line first, but to take people across the finish line with you. Just as James challenged, allow patience to have her perfect work in your life as you minister to others this week.
Fourth, seek accountability. People who lead themselves well know a secret: they cannot trust themselves. Too many good Christians have fallen from God’s calling because they put too much trust in their own ability without exercising accountability. Jeremiah 17:9 warns that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If we choose to have a lack of accountability in our personal life, this choice will certainly lead to problems in our public and ministry life. Sadly, many statistics prove this to be true. Determine now to increase your accountability to others. Observe the following stages you will face the more you choose to be accountable.
- You do not want advice.
- You do not object to advice.
- You welcome advice.
- You actively seek advice.
- You often follow the advice given to you.
Leading yourself well means that you hold yourself to a higher standard of accountability than others do. Now, if you are thinking, that’s not fair, then you may be in the wrong vocation. Leadership is a trust, not a right. God has called us to be leaders of His people, but before we can lead a group of volunteers at the church, we must first learn to lead ourselves.
When the leader doesn’t inspect himself, the people don’t respect him.