I have believed for years (and still do) that insecure leaders are dangerous leaders. I have experienced this in my own life and have addressed it numerous times on my website. Additionally, I have seen it played out in leaders with whom I have served over my 55 years of vocational Christian leadership. Carey Nieuwhof does a great job of what to look for to ascertain if you are plagued by this in your own leadership.
Guest Post by Carey Nieuwhof
Ever feel a little insecure as a leader?
You’re not alone.
Insecurity is something I’ve battled, and I can think of almost no one in leadership who hasn’t struggled with it at some point, including most very successful leaders.
Insecurity is that awkward lack of confidence that makes you too aggressive in some settings and too passive and resigned in others. It makes you hide from who you really are from others, and honestly, it makes you hide from yourself.
Finally, insecurity drains the life out of your leadership and ultimately out of you.
Insecure leaders have a hard time identifying the fact that they’re insecure, because, well, insecurity feels normal to them.
The challenge is as an insecure person, your behavior will make perfect sense to you but not to anyone else.
So rather than having that happen, why not look for the signs insecurity is impacting your life and leadership now?
Here are 7 signs that the insecure leader in the room is you:
1. You want to have all the best ideas
Insecure people end up being controlling people.
Insecurity makes you want to ensure that all the best ideas flow from you or through you, so you can claim the credit.
That way, as your insecurity recognizes, when people talk about your organization, they’ll talk about you. And when your team thinks about you, they’ll think about how bright you are.
While that may feel good at the moment, over the long term it’s draining and vision-thwarting.
The problem, of course, is that this assumes you have all the best ideas, which is never the case and (especially for pastors) completely unscriptural. (There’s something about the gifts of God residing in the people of God in the Scripture).
Second, if all the best ideas need to come from you, your organization won’t have that many great ideas. You’re not that smart. Really.
But your insecurity needs you to be that.
And everyone and everything suffers as a result.
2. You feel secretly threatened by great talent
Insecurity and fear are frequent companions.
Your insecurity will make you fear people who are more gifted than you or better than you.
As a result, just like when you need to have all the best ideas because you feel threatened by talent, you’ll exclude them from your team, never invite them to your meetings, keep them off the platform, and otherwise exclude them from your life.
By the way, this doesn’t just apply to staffing. It applies to volunteers as well.
Your most capable volunteers will sense your ambivalence toward them, and eventually, they’ll leave.
Here’s what you need to realize: an insecure leader’s sense of smallness always drives big talent away.
3. You can’t celebrate someone else’s success
This trait is a tell-tale sign that you are insecure.
Why can’t you just give a compliment? Why can’t you be genuinely happy when someone else succeeds?
Envy and jealousy drive an insecure leader’s emotions whenever there’s a win on the team, and that’s never good for anyone.
For you to win, someone else does not have to lose. Life is not a zero-sum game, especially not life in the Kingdom of God.
Ask yourself: If you can’t compliment someone else, why not?
4. Your results are your reward
So this one’s hard.
I’m a driven person…but making your results your reward will leave you in perpetual insecurity forever.
Making your results your reward works just fine when everything’s up and to the right. But the moment something takes a downturn, you crash.
As Tim Keller has pointed out, if you let success go to your head, failure will go to your heart.
The reason making your results your reward is a bad idea is that you assign your happiness to something beyond your control. Hard work and faithful leadership don’t always result in record years.
If you want to be perpetually insecure, make results your reward.
5. You’re constantly comparing yourself to others
Teddy Roosevelt was right. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Yet many of us will live our lives trying to pretend that’s not true.
There is a world of difference between tracking with someone to grow and learn and tracking other people or organizations to see how you stack up. One is healthy, the other destructive.
Your worth as a person and as a leader is not established in comparison to anyone else. It was established on a cross on a hillside outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
Your value doesn’t depend on what you think you’re worth or what anyone else thinks you’re worth. It depends on what God thinks you’re worth.
6. You settle for imitation because you’re scared of innovation
Insecure leadership makes you feel like you’re stuck in middle school, forever.
Are your clothes cool enough? What about your hair? Do you have what it takes to go to the next level? Probably not…so you just copy whoever you determine the cool kid is right now.
Imitation kills innovation. You won’t innovate when you’re imitating.
As hard as it is to believe, God made you to be you for a reason.
He gave you your voice, not someone else’s.
He gave you your body, not someone else’s.
And he gave you your mind, not the mind of another leader.
It’s fine to have heroes. It’s great to learn from other people who are masters at what they do.
But pretty much all the people you admire got to where they’re at not because they were trying to be someone else, but because they took the gifting God had given them and developed it.
Learn from others. Leverage what God gave you.
In the process, you’ll develop your voice. God longs to hear it. After all, he created you.
7. You’re assuming age will make this better
So maybe you’re a young leader or mid-way through your leadership run, and you think when I hit 40 (or why I hit 50), all my internal angst will be resolved, right?
If you live insecure, you’ll die insecure. You don’t outlive insecurity. You outgrow it.
Working on your insecurity today will help you become more secure tomorrow. There’s no other way around it.
The only way to become a more secure leader is to grow.