As I work with other leaders, their lack of self-awareness is one of the most common challenges. As I work to become a better leader in my own life I recognize that I struggle with the same issues. It is often easier to see the speck in my brother’s eye than it is to notice the log in my own.
With that realization in mind, I was glad to come across The Self-Aware Leader by Terry Linhart. Prior to this book I was unaffiliated with Linhart’s work and prior to this book I had never read a book on self-awareness as a leader. Having read the book, I am now glad to be affiliated with Linhart.
The goal of the book, based on the subtitle, is to help the read discover his or her blindspots to reach their full ministry potential. Fortunately, this is no self-help book nor is it a checklist to overcome your blindspots. Linhart takes the reader on a journey to wrestle with his past, his present, his pre-conceptions, and even his own schedule and time-management to better understand not only who he is, but how he is not reaching his full ministry potential. Self-awareness in the way that Linhart describes looks a lot like a spiritual discipline:
Developing self-awareness is an honest examination of God’s work, our limits, the Holy Spirit’s gifting, our weakness, and of our work in ministry. It’s embracing Jesus’ discipleship call to deny ourselves, even die to self, and take up the cause of Christ for our lives.
Throughout the book Linhart’s emphasis continues to reflect this statement. He is convinced that self-awareness–looking into our blindspots–is a spiritual act of inviting the Holy Spirit to show us our sins and shortcomings so that we can confess them, experience Christ’s forgiveness, and move forward. As Christians, and especially as Christian leaders, our goal should be to look more like Christ. Self-reflection enables us to grow in godliness and Christ-likeness.
Without going into great detail, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. In an age where many leaders blame everyone around them for their problems and even their burnout, Linhart urges Christian leaders to own their own sins and failures. He deals with issues like laziness, and lack of effort. He even urges his readers to wrestle with their inner responses to the people around them. Burnout, according to Linhart, is not usually a result of over-work, but of poor self-care and lack of careful planning. Often laziness and procrastination cause overwhelming deadlines and burdens that squeeze out healthy margins for rest and recreation.
If I had written this book it would have been more harsh with a sharp edge. I would have probably written this as a scathing rebuke. I’m glad I didn’t write it because Linhart has found a way to do this much better than I would have. He accurately and carefully rebukes Christian leaders and calls them to repent, but he does so in a way that is not demeaning or defeating. I felt convicted as I read his book, but I felt empowered to seek God’s forgiveness and to pursue further self-examination.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who aspires to leadership in the church or in other Christian ministries. You can also visit Terry Linhart’s website for a discussion guide that goes along with the book as well as other resources. There is also a series of podcasts that follow the eight chapters of the book.
- “The foundational reason for examining our blindspots is so we can be more like Christ in our work.”
- “Too often we attend to externals such as skills, gifts, capacity, and entrepreneurial spirit, so much so that our spiritual life atrophies, inhibiting our maturation and personal development.”
- “Over time, leading tempts us to spend energy protecting our leadership rather than serving the people we lead.”
- “Grieving never truly ends, it just takes on different hues.”
- “Control is largely about power, not leadership.”
- “Before we look for a change in life and ministry, let’s consider that God may want to change us.”
- “At the intersection of maturity, Christ-centeredness, and contentedness, we find joy.”
- “It’s one thing to feel pressure, it’s another to be in despair at its presence and power.”
- “Ministry requires tasks outside of our preferences. At these points young leaders often struggle, and pressures expose patterns that we may not have noticed before.”
- “If we’re not careful, self-focus leads to less about Jesus and God’s power and provisions, and more about the clay of our lives. When we worry (usually because we desire control), we experience anxious pressure.”
- “Healthy margins are worth your best.”