Leadership Lessons to Live By: 3 Signs Your Leadership Is on Target

Leaders want confirmation that their leadership is on target. They want to make sure that they are doing the right thing. Sometimes, this “confirmation” comes in unexpected places. It sure doesn’t come my having a huge Twitter following, fawning accolades on your blog posts, or adoring masses flocking to hear you preaching. Here are three unexpected signs that your leadership is on target.

You’re uncomfortable.

When we take a look at biblical leaders such as David, Isaiah, or Paul, we’ve got to agree on one thing. Paul summed up his life like this: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Leadership is not a picnic in a park. It’s moment by moment of difficulty and discomfort. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, take heart.

Seth Godin’s book Tribe has an insightful passage on the discomfort of leadership.

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.

The scarcity makes leadership valuable.

If everyone tries to lead all the time, not much happens.

It’s discomfort that creates the leverage that makes leadership worthwhile.

In other words, if everyone could do it, they would, and it wouldn’t be worth much.

It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.
It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.
It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.
It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.

When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed.

If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

If you’re  in your discomfort zone, that’s okay. In fact that’s probably a good thing.

You’re lonely.

Leadership is loneliness. Loneliness is not a sin, nor is it a social malfunction on the part of the leader. It is one of the difficulties we must endure in the process of leadership. Most leaders have probably felt a pang of loneliness as they go through their leadership journey. If you are experiencing loneliness, it’s not a sign that you should quit. It is, rather, a sign that you should press on.

However, hear this word of warning:

While loneliness is not wrong, it’s cousin, isolation, is a problem. Isolation happens when we have no one with whom we can wholeheartedly relate on a deep level. Because many leaders are always in lead mode, they fail to take the time to cultivate personal relationships that every human being needs. They become isolated, and dangerously abandoned from essential human relationships. Just as a leader makes disciples, he should also seek discipleship from others.

Shawn Lovejoy, pastor of Mountain Lake Church and directional leader of churchplanters.com, makes this observation:

The most common mistake I see pastors make is becoming isolated….We’re lonely, discouraged and disillusioned, and we don’t know what to do next. Isolation expresses itself in other ways: burning out, or acting out (we have an affair or do something else stupid).  This happens largely because we’ve, at some point,  become isolated from real friendships that God could have used to encourage us and hold us accountable during the weak or tough seasons.

Loneliness can lead to isolation, and isolation can lead to tragedy. Don’t wallow in loneliness. Instead, seek out the accountability and fellowship that will give you leadership longevity.

You’re afraid.

By now, you’re way beyond the I’m-afraid-of-the-dark stage. There are no bogeymen under the bed nor monsters in the closet. But now you face a different set of fears. Fear is a common leadership emotion.

Don’t cling to the myth of the “fearless leader.” Real leaders grapple with fear on a daily basis. There is a profound difference, however, between running in fear and facing in fear. Fear can fuel a retreat in the opposite direction, or fear can ignite a righteous fight. Your fear is a sign that all is as it should be. As a leader, your responsibility is to face the fear and forge ahead in God’s grace.

Discomfort, loneliness, fear — these don’t look like the typical lineup of top leadership qualities. Yet as Christian leaders, we cling to the biblical principal that power comes through weakness. To quote Paul, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9).


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