“Leaders should spend fifty percent of their time leading themselves.” WHAT? So Suggests Dee Hock, leadership thinker, expert and author of books on chaordic organizations and leadership.” When most leaders think of leadership, they think downward (leading those for whom they’re responsible).

But in essence you really lead upward (with those to whom you are responsible), horizontally (with those who are your peers), and, perhaps most importantly, you lead yourself. If I am not able to lead myself, how can I lead others (since leadership has a great deal to do with modeling)? So, what is involved in leading yourself?

When I began to consider self-leadership, my mind raced back to a verse I memorized many moons ago. Song of Solomon 1:6, “…they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.” A modern rendering of that might be. They made me responsible for taking care of what belongs to others, but I have not taken care of what belongs to me. I have not done a good job of managing, stewarding, leading myself and yet I am tasked with and trying to lead others.

As I study the two key passages on leadership in the New Testament 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) it seems to me that they deal primarily with self-management / self-leadership as a prerequisite for leading others.

Could it be that the reason so many leaders fail in leading upward, downward or horizontally is that they have not done a very good job in leading inwardly? Daniel Goleman, the spokesperson for emotional intelligence deals quite extensively with this concept of self-leadership. Goleman believes that successful leaders distinguish themselves by knowing their strengths, limits and displaying self-control in key areas of their lives.

Here are a few areas along with questions to consider that are consistent with I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 as you consider leading yourself.

1. My gifts: How am I doing at leading myself by knowing my gifts, staying within my limits, and developing those gifts to their highest, God-pleasing potential?

2. My character: How am I doing at leading myself by being a person of integrity, following through on promises made, being a person that others can trusted?

3. My Purity: How am I doing at leading myself by being careful of what I allow my eyes to see, my ears to hear and my mind to think about? How are my relationships with members of the opposite sex? Do I have guidelines, safeguards and appropriate and honest, accountability?

4. My pride: How am I doing at leading myself by keeping Christ and not me at the center? Am I the hero of my own stories? Do the words I speak communicate an attitude of arrogance and superiority, or am I characterized by humility and teachability?

5. My Pace: How am I doing at leading myself in the use of my time? Is my schedule writing checks my body can’t cash? Am I going at an unbalanced pace that is digging myself, and those whom I lead, an early grave? Do I have a biblical view of work and leisure, or am I a workaholic who gets a sense of self-worth based on my work?

6. My finances: How am I doing at leading myself in the money arena? Do I have healthy protection, checks and balances built in regarding organizational funds that don’t belong to me? Are there healthy audits over all financial dealing with which I am associated? Do I resist the lusting, grabbing life-style of my culture choosing instead to be content and satisfied with God’s provision? Or, is my happiness at the door of the next purchase?

7. My anger: How am I doing at leading myself emotionally? Do I have a reputation for being a hothead, having a short fuse? Do I keep track of and keep score regarding perceived slights, insults, put-downs? Does resentment, bitterness, lack of forgiveness characterize me? One survey I came across revealed that bitterness is the major cause of burnout for men between 38 and 50 years of age.

Years ago I heard Lorne Sanny (former president of The Navigators) speak about areas of self-leadership that he kept an eye on and prayed about so that he wouldn’t self-destruct. I, at that time, developed my own list that I pray over most days: Lust, pride, patience, love of money, anger / bitterness. These are my key areas of “Self-Leadership.”

“In a race, everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. Like an athlete, I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.” I Corinthians 9:23-27 (The Living Bible)

© 2003 Dave Kraft, The Navigators Church Discipleship Ministry. Unlimited permission to copy or use is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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