I see a church graced with layers of ‘once-in-a-generation’ type leaders – who are naturally gifted, spiritually potent and genuinely humble.
– Brian Houston 2014
We hear so much about leadership and what it means to be a great leader. The statement above is from our church’s Vision Statement. Brian speaks of ‘once-in-a-generation’ type leaders and then goes on to profile them. I think most churches have at least one ‘once-in-a-generation’ leader, but for us, we’re believing for layers of these ‘once-in-a-generation’ type of leaders. That potentially means everyone who calls our church home is included in these layers of leadership.
But I want to look at leadership through the lens of insecurity. Everyone has to deal with insecurity in one form or another. Perhaps you’re insecure about your appearance, or your background – whatever it may be, no one is exempt from having to deal with insecurity.
Insecurity affects our perspective, and I know from personal experience how insecurity can warp your interpretation of the things that happen around you. Have you ever wondered, How did they arrive at that conclusion from that input? What you’re pondering is insecurity at work. It colours our perspective and governs our behaviour. Insecurity can make people do really dumb things!
When it comes to leadership, the most dangerous scenario is a leader who has not dealt with their insecurities and is being overpowered by them. So, if we are going to see the layers of ‘once-in-a-generation’ leaders, we must each win the battle with our insecurities.
You may have already realised this is not really a ‘feel-good’ message; you may find it a bit confronting, so buckle-up and come with me if you want some help to overcome these issues. And hang in there, because there is light at the end of the tunnel!
When Brian penned his vision about ‘once-in-a-generation’ type leaders, I don’t think he wasgroundlessly hoping that perhaps, one day, maybe this could happen. I suspect he was adding his faith to believe for great leaders like those from the past, such as David, knowing that this has happened before. First Chronicles, chapter eleven speaks of David’s three mighty warriors, naming them and listing their great exploits. We can read chapters like this and think, oh that’s really coolbut forget that only a few years earlier they weren’t the mighty warriors we read about here. In 1 Samuel 22 when David was fleeing Saul’s murderous pursuit, we get to see what these mighty men once were:
“David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.”
These three mighty men were among a large group who were in distress, in debt and discontent – David was leading quite a motley crew! And yet somehow, through the years under David’s leadership, these men didn’t remain in distress, in debt and discontent but they became mighty warriors – ‘once-in-a-generation’ type leaders, just like David.
Leaders tend to produce after their own kind. What made David such a great leader? Was it his great exploits, like slaying Goliath? You must admit, that was pretty cool! Shepherd boy one day, hero of Israel the next! However, the thing that made David so great was the great leaders he raised.
Good leaders measure success by what they grow, great leaders measure success by who they grow.
Even an insecure leader can have great success in achieving something great, but an insecure leader can never, ever raise up great leaders. So, as a church we can have success and yet not fulfil our vision, because although great exploits are important, our job is to raise up great leaders. To do that, we have to deal with insecurity because until we learn to be a secure leader, we can never be a great leader. Why? Because it takes a secure leader to raise and release others. The number one issue in raising great leaders is dealing with insecurity. So, how can we recognise and deal with insecurity in leadership?
SIGNS OF AN INSECURE LEADER
They abuse authority
Insecure leaders are more focused on submission than mission. It’s more important that others do what they say than it is to achieve the goal. For sure, we should submit to the mission and allow that to lead us, but insecure leaders want to be in control and get people to obey them. So rather than a battle for the mission, it becomes a battle for submission, creating a very toxic environment. Sadly, a lot of young leaders start out this way; their first goal is to make everyone obey them.
They use politics to get ahead
Insecure leaders align themselves to others they think can be of benefit to them. Their connections are ‘political’ and self-promoting. I’ve been in full-time ministry for over 25 years now and seen this unfold; when people gain opportunities because of who they are around, but the problem is it’s not sustainable. Their short-term gains end up undermining them. We’ve all met them. The ones who aren’t interested in you until they know what you do or who you’re connected to. It’s about what you can do for them.
They are position and title focused
Insecure leaders are more concerned with being served that with serving. Their leadership focuses on themselves, not others. Their insecurity seduces them into focusing their energies on their expectations of what they believe they should be. The problem with this is that the leadership role ends up changing them into something they’re not.
They undermine, attack and are threatened by rising leadership
The greatest example of this is found in the biblical account of Saul and David. Saul loved David when he killed Goliath, rewarding him with position and wealth. But when Saul heard the women in the streets singing, “Saul has slain his thousands,and David his ten thousands”, his heart was consumed with anger and jealousy. The Message Bible says, “This made Saul angry—very angry. He took it as a personal insult.” (see 1 Sam 18:8) Yet David was loyal to Saul and his desire was to honour his king. But from that moment forward, Saul kept a suspicious eye on David. That’s what insecurity does – it will make you suspicious of others.
They compromise convictions
Again, a great example of this is in Galatians chapter two when Paul confronted Peter for his double-standards concerning eating with the Gentiles. Paul challenged Peter, calling him a hypocrite. The question is whether you hold the same convictions no matter who you are with. It’s easy to hold convictions when you are leading, but what about when you are in the company of others you respect?
SIGNS OF A SECURE LEADER
Their identity comes from who they are in Christ
Secure leaders find their worth and value in who they are, not in what they do. Our worth and value doesn’t come from where we sit in church but where we are seated in Christ. I remember a time years ago when I was confronted with this. I was interested in a girl, but I thought she’d never be interested in me because I didn’t have a nice car, good job or much to offer. I was a broke college student. My worth and value was firmly founded in my circumstances. But one day, the Holy Spirit arrested me through a comment someone made, and I decided to deal with my insecurity. I began to speak words of faith and prophesy my future according to God’s Word until my mind was renewed in this area. Suffice it to say, that girl became my wife!
They understand God is ultimately in control
Despite ongoing adversity after being sold into slavery, Joseph recognised that all the while, God had a greater plan. He ended up in a place of favour and influence, eventually saving the lives of many people including the brothers who betrayed him. Insecurity will cause you to leave when you should stay; accept a role you should not take; sacrifice relationships for advancement – you are building on the sands of insecurity that will end up washing away everything you are trying to gain. Remember, God has final say. He is God – not you. Your good life for good works has been prepared by God before you were ever born. You can trust Him to take care of you, just as He did with Joseph, no matter what the circumstances.
They lead from a place of confidence
Secure leaders have a sense of confidence in knowing that they are where God has placed them. It’s different from the confidence that comes from competence, which develops over time. When God calls you, He is with you to help you not only maintain but grow whatever it is that you’re a part of. You have confidence that God has placed you where you are.
Remember David and his distressed, in debt and discontent crew hiding in the cave? Who is in your cave? When you are trying to do something significant, it can seem like all you have to work with is a motley crew in a cave. But whomever is in your cave with you, you owe it to them to deal with your insecurities and create a platform for them to not only flourish, but to be among the ‘once-in-a-generation’ type leaders.
Remember, good leaders measure success by what they grow, great leaders measure success by who they grow.
Time goes by too quickly to spend it in a dark valley of insecurity. Do what you have to do – get support or professional help if you need to. Root out the lies that are keeping you stuck and overcome them with the truth of who you are in Christ. Be confident that God is with you and leave your insecurities behind. Allow God to empower you and develop your leadership potential and the potential of others through you.