As leaders most of us will become close friends with stress in some form or another. We often experience pressures from internal and external sources surrounding our roles and responsibilities. The internal stress usually revolves around insecurities, fear of failure, unhealthy comparisons, or even pride at times. External pressure can come because of extra work demands or unreasonable expectations and needs of team members. All good leaders care about these things; some of us struggle under the weight of our roles and that can start to push in on who we are at our core, not just who we are as leaders. Over the last 13 years of leading in a church context I have found four helpful ways to keep hold of my authentic self, balance the demands of external pressures and fight the internal whispers that keep us up at night.
- Dynamic Prayer life
- Friends who do the same thing as you
- Leadership Coaches
Dynamic Prayer life
First and foremost, prayer and all that goes into building a personal, growing, and authentic relationship with God has become a key to me keeping my head above water in times of stress or pressure. I don’t say this as a pithy Sunday-school answer. Prayer, meditation and scripture reading serves us, in that it focuses our attention away from ourselves and onto Christ our Creator and Savior. I have seen over and over again that when stress and pressure starts to swell over my head, I have most likely started to abandon my abiding time with God. I may have started skipping my morning liturgy or tried to use the study I’m doing for this week’s sermon as “devotional” time as well. In these times it is so important to refocus and shift my perspective from all MY struggles onto God’s greatness and goodness, which brings peace to overworked minds and stressed out hearts.
Friends who do the same thing as you
There’s nothing quite as comforting, even for those of us who are introverts, as looking someone in the eye and not having to explain the pastor thing to them. Maybe for you it’s not pastoring. Maybe you lead a non-profit or a business yet this suggestion on how to stay healthy in leadership is still relevant to you. Find people who get it. Who either, have been or are leading in the similar areas to you.
As a lead pastor, I have some unique situations that arise and I find it extremely comforting to text or call a friend who is a pastor as well. Someone I know will not judge me or shame me but will listen and say those words we all long to hear “I totally get it.” It’s a gift that cannot be replicated by someone who has not done what you do. So give yourself the gift of a friend or two who share your vocation, people who understand the challenges and know how to celebrate the wins with you. They don’t have to live in the same city as you; technology is great for connecting us over long distances. Who knows? One day they may need you to say, “I get it,” and you will get it!
Leaders are capable of leading well only if they are ahead of their followers. In other words, leaders must be continually learning and growing. One of the resources I have found to be helpful in my leadership journey has been hiring a leadership coach. My coach knows his stuff. He’s qualified to ask great forward thinking questions, offers resources and challenges me in the places where I have let complacency or fear rule instead of courage. The beauty of coaching is that it revolves around the challenges I identify as my own and the goal is that I will find solutions that are practical and achievable. It’s not meant to delve into the past or even the present problems, but to help you think clearly about where you are currently and where you want to go. Coaching sets you on a course to follow the purpose for your life and make choices to grow into your future leadership.
All of us, but specifically leaders who are in helping roles, will face loss, trauma and grief at some point in our lives. We’ll react in ways that we don’t understand, be present for others during traumatic events and we may even struggle with our own demons. No matter if we are the experts in our field there will be places in relationships where we need help. Our spouses, our families and possibly our own issues with control, dependence or addiction need to be addressed if we are to be healthy, flourishing human beings.
This is why we need professional counselors. To walk us through all the stuff that comes at us. As leaders we need safe, confidential, educated people to help us. Counseling saved my life at a time when I was desperate for a place where I didn’t have to be “on” all the time. Counselors want only the best for you and will not take from you, as others often do.
Are you using tools like these to help you prepare for and weather the hard times? If not, what is holding you back? Are there other tools and approaches you find helpful? Whatever help you have in place, don’t be afraid to lean on it. They might just save you when nothing else can.
Korista Lewis-Beaty is one of five amazing ladies who regularly blog at www.thepreachergirls.com. Korista and her husband, Ryan, are church planters in Houston. If you enjoyed this blog post, find out more about Korista and her leadership here!