LEADER, KNOW THYSELF!
How well to you know yourself? You may say “Very well; I live in here”.
Actually we are all aware that getting to know who we are, what strengths we have, the skills we should develop and what weaknesses we have, is a process; one that is sometimes fulfilling and exciting, and sometimes discouraging and painful. It happens intensely for most people during their twenties, with quite a lot of that intensity carrying on into their thirties. By mid-forties most people should have a pretty good idea of their strengths, weaknesses, abilities and their spiritual gifts.
Wise people and teams have written numerous books on the importance of discovering what you are good at, and then developing your strengths and gifts until you become highly skilled. The converse of that is to know your weaknesses, and recognise that you will need others alongside you who have strengths where you are weak. It was a great help to me when, a few years ago, someone pointed out a serious flaw in our society, and especially our educational processes, which tend to highlight our weaknesses; then we are encouraged to work on improving where we are weakest.
I was never much good at art. I just don’t have the fine motor skills to draw paint or sculpt. No matter how hard I worked at school, I was never going to be an A student in art. (When Tracey Emin’s “Bed” became famous, I thought I could do that, so perhaps I could be an artist after all. But that is another subject.)
I don’t need to be good at art, because other people are and I am designed to work in teams, adding my strengths to the strengths of others and overcoming our weaknesses in the process. When I need a webpage design I can get someone else to provide it!
So, none of us can “do it all”, even though some people give the appearance that they can. We can each focus on our strengths.
But what happens when a person is sure they have particular strengths, but really they don’t? Or perhaps they are ambitious to develop skills where they just don’t have the strengths to do that. I worked with a person who was an outstanding organiser. She was especially good at managing large events. She made very difficult tasks seem easy, but she, for some reason, seemed to despise those abilities and rather wanted to be the person up front. In the end, this outstanding organiser became the senior leader of a small group of people, which gradually declined until nothing was left.
What do you do when you are convinced you can do something well, or can at least learn to do it well, but others see you don’t have the aptitude, or strengths to do that role well? This is such a difficult question!
On the one hand, it is possible that for one reason or other those others don’t like us, or have some prejudice against us, and with malicious intent they seek to tear us down. Perhaps they are ambitious, and we are seen as a competitor.
On the other hand, there aren’t many people like that, and we are likely to have others who will speak to us honestly and truthfully. So we should be eager to listen to those who know us and can give us helpful advice about our strengths and weaknesses.
However, even when good feedback is available there are a few people who just don’t know themselves. Their own opinion of themselves is seriously at variance with who they really are. I won’t attempt to analyse why it happens, because I think there are a great many reasons why a person may try to develop in a direction for which they are not equipped. When it happens, that person can waste years of their life, and end up having failure after failure. Or at best they will keep working at a role, especially in leadership, that doesn’t suit their strengths.
Here are some signs that a person might be ambitious in the wrong direction:
- You find yourself under tremendous stress, and consistently wondering if you are doing OK.
- Quite a number of reasonably trustworthy people try to point you in another direction, or perhaps you sense that they are not fully satisfied with your performance.
- If you have reviews, they are not encouraging.
- You find yourself fending off those negative reviews or criticisms by attempting to discredit those who produce them.
- You find your life is not going in the direction you want, but you genuinely feel it is other people’s fault.
- You begin to wonder why it seems that everyone is prejudiced against you.
Joy Dawson, one of the people who helped lay the foundations of Youth With a Mission, once said that;
“humility is being willing to be known for who you are”.
I believe that; but we often know things about ourselves only as we see then through the eyes of others. We were actually designed to live in open and honest families and communities. However, it takes a deep humility to hear and believe others when what they are saying is different than we want to hear.
The really excellent news is that each of us is designed wonderfully with unique strengths. As we discover those, sometimes by trusting the eyes of others, we can live joy-filled, productive lives. We were created for harmonious relationships and when we unselfishly work in our strengths to help others and they compensate for our weaknesses, we function like a healthy body. And that is the way it is meant to be!