Leadership is often portrayed as taking a position out in front of everyone else in a sort of pristine paradise where the line of site to the future is clear, the sun is shining and the air is fresh and clean (ever hear the phrase “only the lead dog smells fresh air”?). Sometimes a more accurate way to think of leadership is being in the thick of battle. A battle where your view is clouded by smoke and you’re covered in sweat and mud, armed only with a passion and perspective that’s fueled by a vision for a better future.
Leadership is a contact sport. You can’t be in leadership for very long without taking some blows. Many of them we expect as leaders and we deal with directly because we’ve chosen to step into the arena. Still some come from unexpected places at unanticipated times from unlikely people. The blows are mental and emotional rather than physical but they take their toll. Over time it can create a tendency for us to take steps to protect our hearts by building up defenses. Then…
“We dress up these defenses, give them principled and virtuous names. Cynicism is called realism. Arrogance masquerades as authoritative knowledge, and callousness becomes the thick skin of wisdom and experience.”
As you take time to reflect over the holidays I encourage you to examine your heart. Have you built up any defenses, however you’ve named them? Have you lost any aliveness? In the quietness of the presence of the Spirit of God take a look at Romans 8 where you will find:
- We are not condemned, but have been given life.
- We are encouraged to live by the Spirit, not as slaves, but as adopted sons and daughters of the God of the universe.
- Even when we don’t know how to pray, we know “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
- “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
- Always keep in mind that “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Leaders experience difficult days, but God promises that even in these dark times “God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Embrace God. Express your aliveness. The people you lead depend on it.
“The most difficult task of leadership involves learning to experience distress without numbing yourself...
…The hard truth is that it is not possible to experience the rewards and joy of leadership without experiencing the pain as well. The virtue of a sacred heart lies in the courage to maintain your innocence and wonder, your doubt and curiosity, and your compassion and love even through your darkest, most difficult moments”
NOTE: The quotes above are from the “Sacred Heart” chapter of Leadership On The Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky