Four W’s of Leadership
A leader’s life is busy. There is always something requiring our response; some crisis, some pastoral demand, something that hasn’t been done yet. We always have a To-Do list piling up in front of us.
I’ve recently been reminded of the story of Ezekiel, found in 1 Kings 19. Ezekiel understood that feeling of coming to the end of your hope, of being discouraged, disillusioned and in despair. Most likely every one of us has faced this feeling along the way of our leadership journeys. Even if we have had a good run of success and things have gone well, sometimes just one thing happens to destabilise us, causing a switch in us that suddenly makes it very hard to keep going.
It’s not new news that leadership is hard, costly and demanding, and a simple fact we so often forget is the need to look after ourselves along the way. I love Gods practical response to Ezekiel’s wellbeing, and the reminder that it’s often the simple things that make the most difference.
The time to rest, to eat and drink and regain our strength are basic principles, yet even over time and experience, so many leaders fail to implement those things as a strategy to keep us well and healthy, both physically and spiritually. In this chapter, God makes a way for Ezekiel in the practical, so that he can once again cope with the spiritual challenges he faces.
Have you ever found yourself seeking God but struggling to hear Him? Worn down, with no inspiration to write a sermon? Nothing coming together easily, and the desire to run and just have a “normal” job all of a sudden, looks so appealing?
Leaders are generally encouraged to push in more to the presence of God, study harder, worship deeper, give time for accountable leadership relationships, etc. Whilst all of that is good advice, we also can’t afford to overlook our own practical needs.
For example: how many hours of sleep are you giving yourself? Do you eat on the run and therefore end up eating the wrong things? Do you work through your lunch break? Are meal times always rushed? Do you take on enough good food, and water, and rest throughout the day?
Believe me, these things matter. If they matter to God, they should matter to us. Do them well and they won’t fail to have positive effects on you and the people you lead. Ignore them to your peril. My guess would be that you will inevitably find yourself depleted of energy, and downcast in spirit, questioning God and questioning yourself.
I’m so thankful that our God is One who continues to draw alongside us in gentleness in order to restore us, bringing peace back into our lives. Let’s not deny Him this way of caring. It’s so comforting to know that we are never out of His concern, which is why it’s so important that we not be naïve enough to think God doesn’t want to teach us habits of practical self-care and soul-care, not just spiritual habits. We see from the story of Ezekiel how these things interlink. His encounter with God in this way enabled his onward journey, creating a pivotal shift in his leadership, and therefore in his legacy.
LaShaun Middlebrooks Collier says “Self-care is possessing enough self-awareness to invoke repeated patterns of being that harmoniously correct the behaviors of over-functioning for others while under-functioning for yourself.”
Here’s a question for you, and it’s one for all leaders.
How are you over-functioning for others and therefore under-functioning yourself?
Let me encourage you to find times in your schedule to take rest, asking yourself these 4 W questions and considering them as pivot points in the wellbeing of your life.
Who am I being? – This is about identity. Does confidence or insecurity spill out of you? God’s call does not insulate us from our insecurities; how are you dealing with them? Do you find yourself repeatedly apologising, or over-critiquing your work? If so, what would God say about that, and would that show that you possibly need more rest?
What am I saying? – This is about communication. Do you speak life to those around you and those you lead, or are you speaking negatively? Do you speak a language of truth and hope? Are you intolerant or impatient to those you lead, and communicating in that way? Could that show that you possibly need more rest?
What am I practicing? – This is about what you’re modelling. How are you resting? What hobbies do you have, if any, and would God want more for you? When’s your bed time? How’s your diet? Are you taking regular days and time off, protecting yourself from the pressure of leadership? Do those you lead see how you do this and recreate it in their own lives?
Where am I casting? – This is about what you are creating. What areas of your leadership are bearing fruit? How do you regularly make sure that what you are doing is what you are meant to be doing? What needs to stop, start or continue? And where are you seeking God to make sure your in alignment with Him?
This is not easy, but it is my hope that you find these thoughts and leadership tools useful for your leadership journey.
Today make time to rest, sleep, eat well and drink plenty of water. Christ is glorified in us in this way too.
By: Amy Walker
Senior Pastor Church, Paisley, Scotland.
This article was previously published in Liberti magazine, July/September2017.