By now, you know that I often define leadership broadly: Anyone who has an influence on bringing about direction or change in others’ lives is a leader. Parents, you’re leaders. Teachers, you shape the leaders. I know there are times to talk about leadership theologically and organizationally, but for today we focus on those moments where we lead out for the sake of others.

It’s summer in the north, so that means we’ve been conditioned from our school days to take time off for vacation, renewal, and more. I’ve been jotting down some notes over the last few weeks as I’ve interacted with various media outlets (radio shows, magazines, etc.) about my latest book, THE SELF-AWARE LEADER. I ambitiously thought the notes would make five different blog posts, but they have a uniformity that makes for a helpful list of five observations.

  1. The concern for marketing, fueled by an ever-present “audience” via social media, contributes to burnout. Almost all of our social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) are audiences that we carry around in our pockets and think about each day. We don’t even know most of the people who “follow” or “like” us, but we think about what to show them from our lives (especially our diets to show them how we’re looking). Add a touch of insecurity that many of us possess and suddenly we can find ourselves thinking that the “audience” is never impressed enough or that they don’t like us as much as they could… so we work harder to take better pictures. The other way social media can cause burnout is merely by the time spent on it. Sure, social media can be a ton of fun, but it can also drain away leaders’ creative space, time for purposeful reading, and even for leading others! About purposeful reading, Seth Godin recently observed, “No one is going to remember a Facebook post in 7 years, but that book you read this week could change your life.” Godin calls social media “unwelcomed noise” that we let crowd and push us in directions … that may not be what God desires for our lives. To that end….
  2. Unplugging is like going to the doctor: It leaves us exposed. I regularly have people from all backgrounds and faith traditions participate in retreats of varying lengths. While they’re on the retreat I have them engaging with Christian readings (which everyone expects and welcomes since I teach at a Christian school), but the time away from noise, busy-work, and people (and without a smartphone) causes a great deal of unrest … and often produces emotional responses. It’s not the unplugging per se, but rather it’s the “revisiting” of what matters in life. While spending time away (and while engaging passages from the Bible, Henri Nouwen, Anne Dillard, and others that I assign), they see the world… literally. They notice nature again. They recognize the work of God in their lives. They easily notice (and judge) the discomfort they feel by not having their phone by their side. It’s ironic that people feel ill-equipped to face the world and its problems without Google close by while at the same time the mere presence of a smartphone around us reduces our cognitive abilities. We need to unplug regularly to examine our lives.
  3. We need to answer the question, “Why am I striving?” There is a lot of activity in our work and lives. For what purpose and end are we pressing? I remember driving on a road that was clearly the high-rent area of the city and its suburbs. The amazing homes sat back from the road and were the centerpiece of massive perfect yards that looked like golf courses. I thought to myself how amazing it would be to live in such a home. At the same moment, my GPS kicked in, “You have reached your destination” as I neared the office for my meeting. I laughed: For many, that (a big house) IS their final destination. It’s the hope. It will either be an expensive coffin or something they’ll leave a few years later as they downsize or have to move to assisted living. If all we want is the latest and greatest, there will be no end. Answering the question “why am I striving?” for our efforts will be a helpful and telling exercise.
  4. People “do business” with those they know, like, and trust. Trust is the commodity that makes things go. Be trustworthy.
  5. Little problems can cause big wrecks. One thing I’ve learned from others as they talk with me about the themes in THE SELF-AWARE LEADER is that we all have little issues that need our attention. They may be patterns, excuses, areas of sin, or deep emotions, but they are little warning signs that something bigger may follow. I was recently driving my car and heard (and felt!) a “chunk” sound from the front end. Steering became more difficult and I quickly pulled into a parking lot to call my mechanic. I thought the front end was done and I’d be buying another vehicle. I nursed it to his shop and within 15 minutes he had it fixed … no charge. No charge? It was just a little idler bolt that had come off and I was good to go. But, without that bolt steering and direction were difficult.

This summer, I encourage you to find some 4-hour blocks of time to pull away from the routine, to unplug from the noise of media, and engage with some fresh reading. You may identify ways your life has become noisy, goals you’re striving toward, and areas that may be threatening to steer you off the path you’re on.

If any of this resonates with you and you’re involved in ministry or running a business, I’d love for you to consider joining me for a mastermind coaching group for Christian leaders. This four-month group will be an exclusive opportunity to personally walk through some amazing content and processes with me and to receive some private high-level coaching from someone who’s been developing other leaders for 25+ years now. You’ll benefit from all that I learned writing THE SELF-AWARE LEADER, plus you’ll get a TON more in benefits (tips, profiles, personal monthly phone calls with me) and you’ll do it all with a few other like-minded leaders.

THIS IS EXCLUSIVE!  Due to my work and writing/speaking schedule, I can only take a handful or so of others at a time to invest in them properly. And, because I have a great “day job,” the cost is minimal for the quality of the group. But, I love investing in others and know that it’s difficult to find quality coaching that is personal and doesn’t break the bank. So, this will fill up fast! For more information, check out the website and I hope to see you in the next group!