Driven to a Fault

A friend once related the story of a guy who was “let out of his cage” every now and then to get a specific job done. No one could do this job quite like he could, but in the aftermath, others had to clean up the human fallout. I’m glad to say this was not in the context of ministry, but Christian leaders can do their damage if they are driven by anything other than the love of Jesus.

What drives you?

The leader who is driven by ministry success will often drive others, belittle those who are not doing so-called big things, and fail to develop intimacy with God and vulnerability with others. Other leaders are driven by the desire to please people, so they avoid conflict and allow problems to fester and remain unresolved. We can be driven by fear, insecurity, pride, and a buffet of other malignant motivations. If we lead others, these motivations will affect the people we lead. Instead of hiding under the guise of claiming, “it’s just my personality”, we must grow in character and become conformed into the image of Christ.

In Christian leadership, we don’t own our platforms. God calls us to serve, care for, disciple, and empower others. We can’t do so consistently unless we are emotionally healthy and thriving. Emotional intelligence is greatly needed, especially in results-driven, individualistic cultures. In our broken world, I would take it even further. I’d say it’s vital.

Many organizations are focusing on increasing emotional intelligence because it’s so critical to success that it accounts for fifty-eight percent of performance in all types of jobs. It’s the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.  [1] 

What is emotional intelligence?

“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” [2] It’s trending now, seen milling about in secular and Christian circles popularized by Brené Brown who encourages us to be vulnerable, yet unafraid. Frankly, it resonates with people. In her book, Rising Strong, she teaches us to reckon with our stories and rise strong after failure and pain instead of hiding in shame. Shame makes us feel flawed and unworthy of acceptance and belonging. When a person risks being vulnerable and is met by empathy from another human being, they feel affirmed and loved. But God goes deeper. He addresses the very core of what drives us because He’s after our hearts. Make no mistake, He knows the remedy. He has taken our sin and shame once and for all so we don’t have to prove ourselves.

The apostle Paul was a highly productive leader, yet he could make this bold statement, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

He was able to say this because he no longer lived for himself. His ministry success was measured by His obedience to God and attributed to the grace of God. He lived by, through the power of, and to proclaim the Gospel. In 2 Corinthians, he wrote, For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21) Describing himself as the chief of sinners who formerly persecuted the church, he found His identity and worth in Jesus alone. As Paul admonished his young disciple, Timothy, we must Keep a close watch on how [we] live and on [our] teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16)

In his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World, Peter Scazzero offers some guidelines on how to lead out of loving union with God like Paul exemplified.

  • Be productive, but don’t let productivity define you.
  • Your close walk with God should define you.
  • Surrender your will and abide throughout the day.
  • Give Jesus access to our motivations and fears in ministry.
  • Develop a Rule of Life

A Rule of Life is based on the following four primary categories of Benedictine spiritual life: Prayer/Study, Work, Rest/Sabbath, and Relationships.

The love of God is the hub from which the spokes of the wheel radiate out. When we both receive and give the love of God, we can’t help but thrive and care for the people we lead. A wheel can only move forward if it’s in balance. In a similar way, if we greatly lack in any of these four areas, we will not be able to function well.

We can gain insight from examining each of these areas in our lives to find out how much time and attention we are giving to each. Then we can shift our priorities, if needed, and our schedules to better reflect our priorities.

[1] Bradberry, Travis; Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Kindle Location 354.
[2] Bradberry, Travis; Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Kindle Locations 335-337.
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