the shape of leadership

The Imperfect Leader

Letting go of unrealistic expectations

Kent Ingle on August 12, 2019

When I was starting out, I thought leaders had to be close to perfect. The leaders I admired always seemed to say the right things, make great decisions, and know exactly what to do next. I constantly put pressure on myself to live up to these standards — and inevitably fell short.

I now know these ideals are unrealistic. In fact, buying in to them can stunt our growth as leaders. If I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice, here are five things I would say:

1. It’s not about being the smartest; it’s about asking the right questions. When you are the only one talking, you’re not really leading. You’re dictating, and that is a dangerous place to be. Leaders learn to glean information from the room by asking good questions. It’s not your job to know everything. It is your job to draw out the best from those around you.

2. It’s not about being the most talented; it’s about activating the genius in others. The most effective leaders are like good coaches. They lead their teams to success by helping members discover their potential.

Church leaders are ordinary human beings God has placed in moments of influence for His glory.

3. It’s not about being in front of a room; it’s about making space for others to lead. Great leaders don’t dominate the spotlight. They invest in people and share the mic.

4. It’s not about doing as much as you can; it’s about shaking off the distractions. Leadership requires focus and clarity. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to those things that would pull you away from your God-given mission. Focusing on the main things will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed and burning out.

5. It’s not about measuring effort; it’s about measuring progress. Don’t confuse productivity with progress. Set goals, and track them. Celebrate each step along the way, however small.

Measuring progress shows you’re moving in the right direction. Too often, leaders compare their progress to that of other leaders, which can lead to discouragement. Galatians 6:4-5 says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

Church leaders are ordinary human beings God has placed in moments of influence for His glory. The second you begin to think you have to be more than human, you’ll forget what leadership is really all about. Leadership is a gift, but it is only for a season. Lean in, enjoy the journey, and depend on God’s perfection, not yours.

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