Leaders are often defined by two things.
Celebrity leaders . . . even more so.
These two aspects of every leader’s life will define them for better or worse.
These two aspects of a leader’s life are observable, verifiable, and experienced by those who follow . . . or fall within a leader’s wake.
The outcome can be humility, courage, and compassion . . . or it can be pride, self-loathing, and control.
These two realities can feed the vision of a hopeful, other-centered future . . . or can cannibalize itself towards an ultimately despairing, self-centered present.
Every leader carries both of these realities . . . they are unavoidable . . . the choice lies in the heart response.
I am talking about a leader’s greatest gift and a leader’s greatest wound.
A gift is something you are born with. It’s your created ability. For some, this may be the gift of communication. For some, it may be the gift of seeing the potential in others and understanding how to develop them. Or maybe it is the ability to empathise deeply with those in need. It could be your natural ability to adapt to any and every situation. Or it might be your natural ability to mobilise others into action. This is the most natural aspect of who you are. It finds expression through your leadership influence without you even thinking about it. It is part of what makes you unique . . . and a unique and special leader. This gift may be your most powerful form of leadership influence. But just having this gift doesn’t ensure that you will use it for good. Many gifted leaders have wreaked great misery and destruction on the lives of their followers. Others have stewarded their natural gifting towards blessing . . . the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
A wound is usually something you also don’t choose. Often, wounds just happen. They are part of living life as broken people living and leading in a broken world. They may come by way of your own choices . . . but they are impossible to avoid. They may be physical, emotional, social, or spiritual in nature. But every person . . . every leader . . . has one that is worse than all the others. A wound could come in the form of a broken relationship, loss of something or someone dear, being bullied when you were young, or ignored and overlooked when you were older. Maybe your deepest wound is simply a lack of love and acceptance that has led to a profound sense of fear. Many leaders lead out of fear. Like our greatest gift, our greatest wound can be a source of great blessing to others . . . or a source of great harm to those around us. Wounds can allow us to be more vulnerable, authentic, and sensitive . . or more harsh, hypocritical, and reactive. The real issue is in our heart response to what comes our way.
For me, I believe my greatest gift is the ability to think systematically and strategically. I can naturally look at a problem or opportunity, see the beginning and the end, and intuitively determine the three best ways to get there. My greatest wound is a lack of confidence . . . maybe from an emotionally absent father . . . maybe from a series of small defeats that add up to the belief that I am simply not good enough.
These are powerful elements, which in combination can lead to great influence . . . the essence of leadership. A friend of mine once made the statement that leadership always works. And I think he is right. If you bear a title or simply carry great influence, then your leadership is leveraged and it will always work. It might work for great good or it might work for great bad . . . but it will work.
It comes down to our heart response. Our heart is not just that part of us that contains our emotions. That is a western way of thinking about the heart. But the people of the Ancient Near East thought about the heart in a much more holistic way. Our heart is our governing center. It is that part of us that chooses every day. It is our mind, will and emotions working in concert to encounter, respond and choose. Our hearts are not perfect, but they can be redeemed. Our governing center requires a governor.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:3-6
“Not good enough” is a banner that leads to striving, fretting, worrying, and blaming. And I can be very strategic in my futile efforts to overcome. Several years ago I was awakened to the fact that I could carry another label, another banner that was more than I dared to dream–“treasured possession.” That is the nature of redemption. Belonging can overcome inferiority. The ability to be strategic can bring blessing. The greatest good for the greatest number of people.
Are you able to name your greatest gift and your greatest wound?
Have they been redeemed?
Your leadership life may depend upon it.