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


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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Rhythms of Leadership

Without a doubt, I have found that the number one reason women don’t mentor is because of the fear that they don’t have anything to offer. Nothing can be further from the truth, but the belief of this lie paralyzes us from moving forward when we have the opportunity to act. We all have something to offer, and maybe the reason people think they don’t is because they haven’t taken the opportunity to regularly consider who they are. Who are you? If you have never done so, set aside time this week to write down the answer to that question.

Beginner's Challenge

At its core, leadership flows out of our being not from our doing. When we know who we are and whose we are, we are compelled to act because our purpose requires it. Therefore, one of my points of note to mentors and those considering mentoring is to ensure they are self-aware and caring for their own souls. Regularly setting aside time to be with the God and ask yourself the hard questions, evaluate motivations, rearrange priorities, and consider the important relationships in your life (both those where you are currently investing and others God might be inviting you into) is critical and intentional work in the life of a mentor. Oftentimes, getting clarity about our own insecurities and motivations require us to be still in the presence of the Lord. In his presence, we can quiet the noises and distractions in our head. In his presence, we can set our intentions on him and what he will have us do with our lives. Settling down to listen to the Lord, frees you from the “shoulds” or what you feel you “ought to” do, and brings the necessary conviction concerning the “musts” or those assignments God has strategically placed in front of you.

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