Ever wonder if it’s a prerequisite for a leader to feel like she’s not cut out for the task?
Maybe people have said that leadership comes naturally to you. You might deny it. You might take it as a genuine compliment. Or you might wear it as a crown. If you’re like me you like to take the lead on things. You like control. You like to set an example for people to follow. Rules and following them are one of your strengths.
But leadership is about more than just making and following rules, right? For one thing, leadership is about leading yourself—something God has taught me in a very real way this season.
Our capacity is limited—God’s capacity is not.
Stress is a part of life.
Everyone gets overwhelmed—it’s unavoidable.
It shouldn’t be a big deal.
It will pass.
These are excuses we tell ourselves as leaders when we feel burdened by our commitments. We can’t be honest with anyone about how much we can handle, so we give our “yes” because we don’t trust anyone else to do it right. We sacrifice rest because it makes us feel guilty— “If I have time to rest, I have time to work.” We work harder because it feeds our sense of accomplishment. And when we reach a point of breakdown, we complain and blame ourselves for taking on too much. We should have known better. Our pride comes from having it all together all the time, no matter how many hats we wear.
Perhaps you’re thinking “Oh, have pity on the overachievers,” but if you’re anything like me you’re thinking “I hope I never become like that.” That’s what I was thinking when I reached this point.
It's a hard truth to face when we realize we aren’t leading ourselves well. Our commitments slip out of control faster than we can make plans to keep up with them. People count on us to be prepared, to be one step ahead of them, and we aren’t. When we don’t lead ourselves, our leadership is compromised for anyone else.
So, how do you decide what’s important? Which roles are really worth your time and attention? If the typical answer to this is all of them, then you’re right where I was earlier this year.
Let’s reevaluate together.
Often, it’s a matter of bringing it back to the basics. One day and one task at a time. It’s humbling because we might think we’re better than this. Has your status or level of experience in a role or season of life ever made you feel self-conscious about how you handle stress? Writing lists and setting timers just to get the simplest of tasks completed? It’s not easy.
If you’re doubting your capacity for the task (or tasks) you’re facing, know that you’re not the only one.
Ultimately, our capacity has a limit. Maybe you came up on it three yeses ago, but didn’t notice until you were on the verge of a breakdown. That’s not unusual, but it’s also not necessary.
The truth is, God’s capacity has no limits (and all the overachievers said “Amen!”). God will do what we physically and humanly can’t. It’s not our responsibility—even our capability—to save people. Only God can do that. Our responsibility is to be obedient in our service to His Kingdom and a big part of that is learning to lead ourselves in a wise and healthy way.
When our responsibilities pile up, when we feel overwhelmed by our leadership, it’s a sign of our priorities not being in order. We’re then working out of haste, not rest. Leading out of guilt, not calling. And working out of pride, not intentionality.
Proverbs 11:14 reads “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances” (MSG). As a leader, direction and wise counsel are very scary to lose.
It comes down to trust. When we trust that God has a much clearer view of everything than we do, we can trust that He knows the people we’re influencing and can reach them in a way that we can’t. When we don’t trust God can do that, we panic because we feel it’s up to us. But it’s not. Trusting God is a key part of leading well. When we know He’s in control, we don’t have to put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all.
The verse I keep going back to in all of this is “keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts” (Prov 4:23 MSG). When my heart is unprotected it leads me to allow self-doubt and pride to keep me from facing the fact that I need to get my balance back. We need to surrender the details to God and prioritize properly the leadership roles we hold in life. We can trust God to lead, trust that He has control, trust that we are cut out for the task, because our rest is just as important to Him as our work.