The heat is on when it comes to the topic of leadership. Most of us were told early on to pack our resumes with volunteer roles. And once we’ve started to define our careers, the books, trainings, online courses, and workshops abound to further form as leaders in whatever industry we happen to be in. There are also a myriad of coaches we can look outward to for guidance including spiritual directors, counselors, business coaches, confessors, and the like.
I’ve taken advantage of all of these trainings and mentors myself, but a few months ago, a question kept bubbling up in my prayer time: what does it look like to lead myself? To lead ourselves can look different on any given day, especially considering the season of life we happen to be in, but it always involves being able to distinguish God’s whisper through every other noise in our lives.
Let’s look at a few ways we can lead ourselves, so that we can be sure to walk forward in confidence.
- Don’t be afraid of your specific calling. God’s plan for our lives often looks very different from what we have planned for ourselves, and it certainly looks different from what everyone else has planned for us! The story of Esther, the orphan made queen who eventually saved the Jews from death, comes to mind. Even Esther had to be reminded of her calling, “Who knew if you were made queen for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:4). Being open to your specific calling can only make you a more powerful leader – nothing in this world is more powerful than the Spirit of God moving through a willing servant.
- Always go back to the Word. We can’t begin to lead others well until we begin to distinguish God’s voice from everyone else’s, and the best way to do that is to continually go back to scripture and the sacraments. Quiet prayer time – whatever that may look like in this particular season of life – is a must if we are to wisely lead ourselves and those around us. Things like lectio divina and holding a real Bible in our hands, rather than on our phone or laptop, can go such a long way to help focus back on our calling and follow through on even the hardest of tasks.
- Invest in yourself. Somewhere along the way, I think some of us got the notion that taking care of others means not taking care of ourselves. But if we’re not healthy ourselves, it can be ten times harder to take care of those around us. Doing the smallest things to invest in ourselves, like having that perfect cup of coffee at 3pm each day, a daily walk, or having a texting marathon with a good friend, enable us to continue to serve much longer than if we simply try to push through. Rely on your community fiercely and make self-care mandatory so you can avoid the mess that burning out can bring.
- Give of yourself. This one is intentionally next to last on the list! It can be far too easy to look for leadership and growth opportunities and spread ourselves too thin. The key is to be intentional with our choices. Giving of ourselves can take many different forms, from looking for leadership opportunities around us, seeking out a mentor to help us stretch our skills and abilities, or even reading a book or taking a course to learn more about a specific topic. Surrounding ourselves with people and things that shape us into better leaders can breathe new life into our endeavors and help us to move forward with confidence.
- Show up. The biggest tragedies occur when we quit on ourselves, our people, or our projects midway because the daily grind gets to be too uncomfortable. Uncertainty can be a really scary thing, but I’ll give you a break here – you’re off the hook for being perfect. Embracing the daily grind of what has become monotonous, working out the kinks of a new project, or leaning in to untangle a messy miscommunication allows us the opportunity to be gentle with ourselves and, in turn, to show grace to others.
Learning to lead yourself well not only makes you better able to lead others, it also makes your life that much better.
Lead on, friend!