Leadership is serious business. Leaders are given weighty responsibility that others simply do not carry. There can be incredible pressure to perform, inspire, succeed, expand…I have learned many important lessons while on this leadership journey. Some came from the school of hard knocks; others from well-respected mentors. One of the most important lessons is: Don’t take yourself so seriously!
I heard these words often as a young woman trying to make a mark on this world. I would agonize over missed answers rather than rejoice in scoring an A on an exam. I would replay minor mistakes of a performance over and over again in my head. I stressed out about small details of projects that were less than perfect. I was ambitious, tightly strung, kind to others, but a brutal task master to myself. Thankfully I discovered God’s grace along the way. As I result, I experience much less internal stress and enjoy leading others.
“Don’t take yourself so seriously!” is a great maxim, but what does it really look like? For me, it includes the following statements I try to live by.
This is God’s deal. I heard this one regularly from a former boss and current friend, a risk-taking visionary who boldly invites others to join the mission. The idea is I am responsible to pray and plan, and then execute the plan to the best of my ability. However, there will always be variables outside of my control. But I believe that God is in control. I am called to do my part and release the outcome to God.
“No” does not mean failure. It is disappointing to face a closed door to a promising opportunity, or to hear that somebody else has been selected for a contract. Disappointing…but it doesn’t have to be devastating. It simply means this is not the right timing or that there is a better plan. The Lord sees every detail–past, present, and future. I trust Him, as He lovingly weaves them all together to achieve His purposes.
Keep a sense of humor. It’s okay to laugh at myself. No, really. I am an imperfect human being after all. Despite every determined, right motivated effort, I still make mistakes. And the older I get, the more silly mistakes I seem to make. There is freedom in humbly admitting I am wrong, instead of trying to maintain a polished image. There is even greater freedom in finding the humor, and then laughing about it. In every situation, the joy of the Lord is my strength.
The Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” My number one aim is to honor the Lord. When life and leadership are all about Him, I take Him seriously, and not myself.