This is What all Leaders Need

The New Year is for reflection, fresh starts, and making adjustments. Have you considered, “What will help you stay focused this year?”


There is strength in a song that compels us to respond with clapped hands, lifted voices, stomped feet, and waving arms. There is power in a song that can pull on our emotions—make us shed a tear or reflect on an old memory. Sometimes a good tune makes us jump up and dance. It reminds us that we have soul, that we know a little something about rhythm and perhaps blues. Meaningful lyrics evoke a response by reminding us that we are human, connected through this shared experience we call life.

But too often the songs we love most—those things that bring us life—are drowned out by screaming kids, packed schedules, and burdensome responsibilities. When our lives are so consumed with meeting expectations, trying to measure up, and fulfilling the needs of others, we lose sight of ourselves. We forget who we are, what we need and want, and where we’re going. This sense of loss can become a dangerous reality in the life of leaders. To avoid this danger, we must intentionally practice personal leadership, or what I sometimes refer to as self-care or self-leadership.

The Art of Self-Care

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Caring for one’s well-being is necessary for those who intend to lead for an extended period, and it requires heightened self-awareness. There are personality tests and leadership diagnostics to help determine your personal needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Sustaining healthy relationships and building an affirming community can help ease some of the emotional strain life may bring. Intentionally developing a natural rhythm that brings purpose and significance to your life, however, are perhaps even more important than relationships and self-awareness.

When I was in the Navy, I worked out daily because it was required of me. I didn’t always like the discipline, but I loved the results. Working out increased my daily energy, gave me a good “attack” to start the day, and increased my capacity to enjoy the food that I loved. But after so many years of rigorous training, I needed a break. Five days of workouts every week dwindled to three, then two, and two eventually became none. I had exchanged a rhythm of fitness for a rhythm of desk work. I noticed that the more weekly responsibilities I had, the less I worked out—my physical fitness was the first thing I sacrificed for ministry. Within months, I had gained a few pounds, lacked energy, slept fitfully, and suffered from body aches. In order to gain back the rhythm I once had, my life needed a complete overhaul.

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What Types of Friends Do You Need?

I have a few short weeks before starting another hectic semester of classes. My eyes expand as I notice the width of the books arriving in the mail. The “Type A” personality in me says, “Get a head start. Go ahead and begin reading the books for next semester now.” However, I have learned to embrace the contemplative side of me which acknowledges my need for rest, to recharge my batteries, be in God’s presence and focus on his Word without distraction. I have learned to embrace and appreciate moments of silence and solitude. So my times with the Lord in the mornings are long and wonderful these days. He is my closest friend and my delight.

I recall Robert J. Wicks identifying the types of friends we all need. In his list of friends, he includes books. Books are spiritual guides which help us see God clearly. I am reading a few books right now, but there are two in particular that I am embracing as friends. These books are replenishing me, helping me to sort out things in my mind, encouraging me, making me thankful, and helping me embrace God’s peace. One book is this month’s Book of the Month, Deeply Loved by Keri Wyatt Kent. The other is Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way by Stephen A. Macchia.

Wicks believes there are four types of friends or voices we need in our lives: prophet, cheerleader, harasser, and spiritual guides. As I think about the newness of the year and ordering my life, I am also thinking about the type of friends I need or the type of community I need to intentionally develop to best grow, challenge, and replenish myself on life’s journey.

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One of the books I’m reading asks the question: If you could have a group of women leaders with whom you interact regularly, what would that group look like?

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