What do you think is the biggest leadership challenge you will face this year?
I’m sure there will be as many different answers to that question as there are readers. However, I would like to suggest that when it comes to dealing with and leading people, one universal challenge far exceeds all the others.
This one challenge faces every leader although some of us struggle more with it than others do. It cannot be avoided. It can make or break your initiatives, your goals, even your ministerial career.
Success or failure hang in the balance. Unfortunately, some do not even realize they face this particular challenge!
That challenge is yourself. Specifically, mastery of yourself.
Not your personality, for many types of personalities find their way as effective pastors and leaders. Neither is it your style of leadership, because your style will always be appropriate in some situations and can be adapted for other circumstances. Nor is it your looks or your sex or your age or your ethnicity.
Research consistently supports the conclusion that the best leaders, the most effective leaders in any circumstance are the emotionally intelligent leaders. Leaders who understand their own inner workings and master themselves.
Look, its simple. You can’t lead people well if you don’t understand them and understanding yourself lays the foundation for understanding others.
But it is more that understanding. It is also mastery of your own emotional states. I am not talking about suppressing emotions! I am speaking of ability to calm yourself when you are angry, to encourage yourself when you are down and to move yourself to action even when you are anxious.
Listen, when your own mind is boiling with anger or cringing in fear or wallowing in sorrow, you can’t think clearly. You certainly cannot focus on understanding others. You cannot adapt your behavior to what your followers need or even discern what they need because you are consumed at that moment with yourself.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32 ESV)
So, whatever leadership challenge you face in the days ahead, I believe that God will help you, His appointed servant, to rise to the challenge.
However, whatever that challenge may be, above all, pray that God help you use the situation to increase your self-mastery. That’s the most important leadership skill you can possess.