How Pastors Should Answer the Hardest Leadership Question

It’s the most challenging leadership question to answer: Am I humble?

Humility is the most difficult leadership trait to determine about ourselves. Pride is the most dangerous leadership trait. Arrogance is the root leadership problem. Our sinful nature propels us to an excessive and unhealthy focus on ourselves.

It’s the quintessential leadership struggle. We stand on a sliding scale somewhere between healthy humility and unhealthy pride. Even at our best, determining where we are on this scale is tricky. We almost always believe we are more humble than we are. Unfortunately, we rarely recognize our pride until it’s too late.

Fortunately, there are three key questions to ask to reduce the potential for pride to puff up.

Are you capable, and are you striving to learn more? This question involves competence. Quite frankly, do you know what you’re doing? Too many leaders fake it. Too many leaders do not want to swallow pride and ask for help. Too many leaders fear looking small by admitting they do not understand something. A lack of competence causes many leaders to guide an organization or church into unnecessarily risky waters.

Are you willing to sacrifice your career to do the right thing? This question involves courage. Leaders must be ready to make the hard and right decisions no matter what the cost. Too many leaders make safe (but wrong) decisions because they fear personal repercussions. Integrity means making the tough decisions and taking the heat.

Do you care about your followers as much as yourself? This question involves compassion. Do you love the people you’re leading? If you don’t, then why lead them? And why would they trust you? Don’t leave conflict unresolved with your followers. Don’t get offended every time a direct report corrects you. Don’t be resistant to getting help from the teams you manage. Be concerned about people on your leadership periphery—those on the outskirts of your leadership oversight. Do you know their names? Even if it’s not on your job description, be a human leader. Hob knob with quarterbacks and coaches—that’s important—but never forget the name of the person carrying the water bottles.

The personal virtue of humility is a constant battle, but the most important one. Humility is a daily decision and a lifetime commitment. Leaders are doomed to short-term, arrogant decisions without competence, courage, and compassion. We can fool ourselves by losing focus on who we really are. When the aura of the position gets in the way of serving, we are no longer fit for the position. Ultimately, we are merely pots. God is the Potter. He has ultimate control. And we should lead like we believe it.

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