We have all met people who are not very self-aware. We see their flaws and short-comings clearly, but they do not seem to see them at all. Self-awareness is not an attractive, get-you-fired-up topic, yet it is vital to fruitful leadership. If you are not self-aware, it can cost dearly in pastoral ministry.
Here are three questions that can improve your self-awareness.
1. What’s underneath the surface driving your life?
This question requires a lot of self-reflection. Every day, especially as a pastor and leader, you are making decisions, responding to circumstances, interacting with people, and running after aspirations. But what is driving these things? This question forces you to consider your past, your hurts, and and your experiences to see if you can detect things underneath your decision-making.
Here is an example. When I was in high-school, I did what many high-schoolers do. I made terrible decisions, lied to my parents about where I was and what I was doing, and lived in rebellion against God. Many things I did and participated in were not things that I thought were great or joy-giving, but things that I thought would win the approval of others. If I am not careful today, I can still lead out of the need to be a people-pleaser.
What things from your past may be driving your decision-making today? Are you trying to prove yourself because of a lack of approval from a parent or friend group? Are your aspirations less about the kingdom of God and more about being considered a success? I know these questions are not fun to ask, but we need to discern what is underneath the hood of our lives.
2. What are your blindspots?
By definition, you should not be able to answer this question unless you are either talking about the past or you have asked somebody to point them out to you. You cannot discover your blind spots through self-discovery. Why? Because you are blind to them! You need to invite some others into your life who can help you discern blind spots that may be costing you in your leadership.
Bill Hybels stated several years ago at the Global Leadership Summit that research shows the average person has 3.4 blind spots. Your natural response is probably to think, “Not me!” But humor me for a moment and pretend it is true. It would mean you have 3 things in your life and leadership that you don’t see, but others around you see, that is costing you. That is a sobering thought.
Here are some ways you can discover your blind spots:
- Ask your spouse. If you are married, trust me, they know and see things about you that you refuse to see.
- Ask a trusted friend. Have a friend share with you things they have noticed about you or your temperament that you may not be aware of, after all, what are friends for?
- Ask a supervisor or direct report. If you have someone you are accountable to, they likely know blindspots you have. If you have people you lead, they certainly see your blind spots. Beg people to help you see two or three things about your leadership style or behaviors that you may not realize are costing you credibility or effectiveness.
Your blindspots can cost you a lot of leadership credibility. Self-awareness in a leaders life requires addressing our blind spots.
3. How is your physical, spiritual, and emotional health?
Do not blow past this question. It has three distinct aspects, which are all very important to your leadership. Self-awareness on the part of the leader is knowing how we are doing in each of these areas of our lives.
How is your physical health? Are you overweight? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating healthy and getting exercise? These questions matter because how you are doing physically can have an impact on your energy levels and mood. It is imperative for us to try and eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get rest.
How is your spiritual health? Is your prayer life vibrant and child-like? Are you reading the Word and having your soul nourished by its truths? Are you confessing, repenting, and battling against sin? These are non-negotiable aspects of our spiritual health.
How is your emotional health? Are you quick to anger? Do you sense yourself withdrawing emotionally from people around you? Do you find yourself taking shortcuts because you don’t want to deal with particular issues? These questions can help us gauge our emotional health.
I want to close with some transparency from my own life. I am currently working through some emotional fatigue. I have been pastoring for nearly twelve years, and have never had a sabbatical, but I am taking my first sabbatical in December. It has been a hard year.
I have a son with medical issues, which constantly weighs on me. I lost my uncle this year from a heart-attack. We had a young church member killed in a car accident recently. Additionally, we have had multiple issues with people in the church this year. It has been hard. It has taken an emotional toll on me. It is important for me to be able to admit that and know it impacts my leadership. I find myself currently without the energy to engage in needed debates and necessary conflicts. I am self-aware of my emotional fatigue and I am taking the time I need to get healthy.
Pastors, we cannot run and finish the race if we do not make it to the end. To make it to the end we need to be self-aware of what is driving us, our blindspots, and our physical, spiritual, and emotional health.