Leaders: Know Thyself

by Rick Love

Dennis is a close friend, peer mentor, successful businessman, and fruitful house-church planter. During a meeting not long ago, he asked a question that nearly took the breath out of me. Dennis said, “Rick, where are you on your growth curve as a leader? Have you honestly evaluated your competencies and lack of competencies for this job at this point in your life?”

These were challenging, sobering words. I was humbled because I immediately saw my incompetency. I still have so many things to learn and multiple skills I need to upgrade. However, I also felt liberated because I realized that I am on a growth curve. I do not have to measure up to impossible standards.

I was experiencing what I call Romans 12:3 reality: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment”(NIV). Or as the New Living Translation says, “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves.”

An important principle of effective leadership is this: “Know thyself.” An honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses makes you a more fruitful leader. You know how you fit with your team. You know where you need to grow. It helps you openly to confess errors and admit to incompetency while eagerly seeking to grow. It also gives you greater peace because you are not trying to be something you are not. The leader who knows himself or herself can echo Paul: “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10).

But honest self-evaluation doesn’t come easily. Humanity’s prideful nature flees from this kind of assessment. The pill of humility is hard to swallow. Thus, leaders need community input to see themselves clearly. They need co-workers and friends who will speak the truth in love to them. One of Greg Livingstone’s favorite sayings is, “We all need a [prophet like] Nathan in our lives.”

I not only need Nathans in my life–I also need Barnabases (encouragers) and Jonathans (intimate friends who love me through thick and thin)! In order to facilitate Romans 12:3 reality and upgrade as a team, I make sure the people I lead take part in annual evaluations. Each person is evaluated by his/her supervisor and peers, while each supervisor is evaluated by those working under them. Though it’s not a perfect system, these evaluations are an honest attempt to upgrade and take accountability seriously.

When was the last time you experienced Romans 12:3 reality? What kind of practices do you need to implement to better know yourself? What kind of people do you need in your life to help you understand where you are in your growth curve?