Monday, September 21, 2009

Leadership, Vulnerability & Self-Awareness

As the old adage goes, “we only know what we know” or “we can only see what we can see.” To emerge from the trenches of subjective tyranny to a more objective reality is a challenging leap for many to transcend. And, unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be some trite incantation that one can mutter, thus mystically enter into the reality of another stage, desire as they may.

However, two things, I think, have the potential of being great assets in the process of a leader’s human development.

One, greater self awareness can often only be provoked as one gains an awareness of others. In other words, I’ve had students/mentee’s/etc who have been entrenched in a particular mindset and attitude. They were, all the while oblivious to their disposition, not to mention the funk that was being releasing to everyone else. It seemed that no depth of teaching, instruction or even rebuking could dislodge them from this fixation. However, time and time again, once these individuals were put in a position with some oversight and direction (from a distance) to lead others with the same “funk,” something began to trigger within them. They experienced the tension of leading someone who didn’t want to be lead, or was giving push-back. In the midst of wrestling with this person’s stubbornness, blindness, etc, the leader discovered that this was a direct reflection of themselves. Often they would then return to me with no small apology, followed by a series questions seeking insight into developing past their “dispositions.”

Secondly, it seems the less interaction one has with true, honest and authentic “community,” the less chance one has of entering into such self-awareness. Some things are only exposed as we live life with others and experience the blessing of having someone tell us like it is. For example, I can’t remember ever repenting of selfishness prior to getting married. However, once I could no longer go where I wanted, when I wanted, like I wanted, I began to see traces of selfishness that I had not previously been aware of. This increased even more with my first child, then the second, and even more with the third.

There are certain elements of Christ-likeness and true leadership that can only be developed in the context of community. I would venture that many leaders (regardless of the context), though they may lead groups of people (even communities of people), yet they themselves remain at such a low level of self-absorbed stance, due to the fact that they themselves have never entered into a community experience.

Often, in order to grow as a leader, we much increase our level of self-awareness and upgrade our margin of vulnerability with the truth-tellers in our lives.

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