I just finished a thought-provoking book called Leadership and Self Deception from the Arbinger Institute. It eloquently addresses the tendency we all have to sabotage our own leadership by ignoring our "gut" and not following through on actions which will benefit those we lead, serve, or simply do life with. As Christ-followers, that "gut" feel is the Holy Spirit and we often betray or ignore it. This leads to self-betrayal, which then leads to conflict and unhealthy attitudes towards others.
For me, this is almost always an unconscious act. I have no idea I am ignoring my gut until I see the damage on the other side. James 4:1 provides some insight into what is happening here:
"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" (NIV)
Here's what hit me so hard as I read the book: The unmet desires in my life create perspectives which can close my mind to the needs and ideas of others. As a result, I miss or ignore the inner promptings which can actually guide me to the very fulfillment I am seeking. That leads to relational sabotage and self-deception. It also diminishes my leadership and influence. This damages relationships in my family, my friendships, and my church. In fact, the book states "of all the problems in organizations, self-deception is the most common, and the most damaging."
I believe it!
So, how can we avoid this? What can we do to prevent ourselves from ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit sabotaging our leadership and ourselves? Here are five things to consider.
- Get out of your box.
In this context, your “box” is a metaphor for your limited view of other people. It is that place that we tend to live in when we (subconsciously or consciously) think we’ve got someone figured out. When a person becomes a “problem” rather than a person, we are in the box. We must start by seeing others as full persons if we are going to be effective leaders.
- Work toward common, not individual goals.
By focusing on what is best for your individual career rather than what is best for others, you are betraying yourself. Focusing on common goals alongside a team reminds you that other people have goals, desires, and challenging circumstances as well.
- Guide your decision-making by measuring results.
Do what you know you should do. Check yourself for “in the box” behavior by measuring results. Aim higher and achieve more without worrying about who’s getting the credit. A group of individual all-stars will never out perform a group of people working as a team to achieve a common goal.
- Stop blaming.
Realize when you blame, the root issue is often with you, not those you are blaming.
- Remain teachable.
Be open to correction from those who lead you and serve alongside you. Consider their perspective instead of immediately trying to defend your position.
If we can somehow get out of our "box", we become open to the prodding of the Holy Spirit and our own conscience. When we ignore it, we immediately head down a path where we justify poor judgment and create negative perceptions of the people we lead and share life with.
How are you betraying yourself and your leadership? What unmet desires might be causing this?