My greatest area of personal struggle as a leader

I have struggled for years with a serious problem that has been the undoing of many leaders.  It often lies below the surface but slowly rises to the top when a leader gains power or is given increased responsibility. It has been the Achilles’ heel of many Christian leaders.

I am speaking of insecurity. 

It is the “silent killer” of ministry effectiveness and longevity because the insecure leader might not see the evidences of his/her insecurity until it is too late.

I did not get off to a good start in life.  Living in a home where there was not a lot of love or affection, I struggled early in life with not feeling good about myself.  As a result I didn’t do well in school, was very withdrawn, shy and inhibited.  I was prone to take criticism of any kind very personally and it would often devastate me for weeks or months on end. I was extremely fearful of what people might say/think about me, sometimes falling into the trap of doing really stupid things to be liked or appreciated. 

When I was twenty, Jesus Christ became the center of my life and birthed in me a sense of belonging and security. But it has taken years for that to sink down to a deep level and enable me to not be overly obsessed with myself and other people’s perception of me… to get to that frame of mind where I can hear criticism or have people strongly disagree with me and not have it affect me in a negative way.

In the first 20 years of my ministry experience, I often said or did things in order to get my leaders to appreciate or accept me. Often, it bordered on dishonesty or manipulation of those I led in order to produce better results.  I was not very teachable…not open to the thoughts of others…not flexible and willing to change my thinking or ideas due to my fears and insecurities. Sad to say, I hurt and used a lot of people I should have been encouraging and affirming as their leader, for which I am deeply regretful.

Several years ago, I came across John 5:41 (New Living Translation), where Jesus is speaking to some of the Jewish leaders, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me…” I then and there deeply understood that people’s approval or disapproval of me had dominated my life, enslaving me for far too long and that there needed to be a change.

My journey away from insecurity, comparing, competing and discontent continue forward. I’m not what I want to be, not what I should be and not what I will be, but I thank Jesus I’m not what I once was!  At 75, I am still learning and growing. Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks never met a hungry dog.  I am still hungry to grow and believe Jesus for deep character transformation.

I have come to the conclusion that a domineering or controlling leader is often an insecure leader. The bravado and brashness is a cover-up for fear and insecurity. I know because I have been that leader and have seen that so many times in my 40-plus years in leadership.

An insecure leader struggles with appreciating, praising and giving credit to others. It’s all about him. He loves competition and comparing…wanting to win and be on top at all costs (usually to others). He can view excellence and success in others as a threat to his own leadership and has a tendency to put others down or discredit them in subtle ways.

An insecure leader is often fearful of having his authority and ideas challenged or questioned. It’s difficult for him to trust others, so micro-managing and controlling is the name of the game. Old school command-and-control is his modus operandi.  

He often has his mind made up as to what he wants to do and is not very interested in what others think or may have to offer. If there is one emotional characteristic of an insecure leader it is anger. The anger is always just under the surface and can erupt at any moment when he feels he is crossed, challenged, not sufficiently respected, or appropriately credited for what he has done.

Are you a controlling or a collaborative leader? Are you harsh, heavy-handed or domineering (I Peter 5:3) or work for somebody who is? By His grace, may this post open up new areas of thought, prayer and application for you and the team in which you operate.