Leadership Is Not A Personality Type

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Since I’m on this journey to know myself better and become more effective, I’ve been thinking a lot about personality types recently. There are many tools to determine how and why we display certain behaviors in our life and work: Myers-Briggs, Strengthsfinder, DISC, Enneagram, and so on.

Regardless of the type of test you take, it’s really important to know yourself and put your natural strengths to work for you. If you don’t know (generally) what your results are for these types of tools, I’d recommend searching the internet for a free assessment and see what comes up. Understanding who you are is the first step to living in the fullest potential of who God made you to be.

One of the most helpful tests is the DISC test, which measures four types of personality behaviors: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Compliance (C).

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If you did a survey of many of the top business and church leaders, you would find that most of them have a high “dominant” personality. Dominant leaders are usually go-getters, confident, good decision makers, and like having the reigns of control. This makes them great at starting companies and leading organizations.

But what about the rest of the population (including me) who have other personality types? Does that mean you can’t lead? No way! The good news: leadership isn’t a personality type. 

You might be more of a “steady” person, or maybe you like to follow directions rather than telling others what to do. That doesn’t mean you can’t lead others. Being a good leader is about knowing your strengths, caring about people, and taking responsibility. It’s not about being bossy or mean or even charismatic.

Know your strengths: A leader knows his or her strengths and operates from those. I have a friend who just isn’t very good at organizing the little details of a project. Instead of pretending to be something she is not, she has people who are very detailed come and support her in her role. Leaders are self-aware without being insecure, knowing that everyone has weaknesses and that’s ok.

Care for people: Leaders, by definition, put other people ahead of themselves. People who simply use others to get what they want aren’t leaders. Leaders want to use who and what they are to benefit others. You don’t have to be out in front of people to care about them. Sometimes the best leaders aren’t even on most people’s radar.

Taking responsibility: Leaders go first. In fact, that’s what “leader” literally means. It doesn’t take a certain type of personality to notice a problem and be the first to step forward with a solution. Any personality can own up to what’s wrong and try to fix it. Boldness and initiative aren’t bound up in extroverted personality types, they may just express themselves differently.

No matter who you are, you can step up and lead. You have an arena of influence and you have opportunities for making the world around you better for the sake of others. Find a way to leverage your best gifts and go lead!

My Rebel Heart

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peajayhow/11513173615
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peajayhow/11513173615

It’s not easy to admit your faults. I think that most of the time we live our lives (unconsciously or otherwise) trying to avoid taking a long and hard look at ourselves, warts and all. The problem is we simply can’t escape ourselves. Everywhere I go, there I am.

I’ve shared a little in a recent post about how God has been inviting me into greater authenticity through some personality/value/strengths assessments. It is difficult to see ourselves in this light at times, because these tools are (generally) objective and don’t lie. You may try to alter your personality to avoid how you’re wired, but it doesn’t change who you are. It’s like looking in a mirror…before you’ve done your hair and shaved. What you see is what you get.

And let’s not sugarcoat it: it’s not just “flaws” or “weaknesses” that you see. Any time I look at myself and invite God into the process, what I see is not just my weakness but my sinfulness.

One of the massive things I’ve uncovered in this season is an undercurrent of rebellion against authority. This one runs deep in our human DNA and goes all the way back to the beginning. At the heart of the sin of Adam and Eve was disobedience – rebellion against God’s right to decide what they could and couldn’t do. We follow suit and buck against authority almost every chance we get.

God has better things for us. But this one is tough for us Americans living in the twenty-first century. We live in a context that generally rewards rebellion as “individualism” and “self-expression.” Don’t like your boss? Quit! Don’t like your church? Leave! Don’t like your president? Complain! In fact, many go way beyond complaining. Some of the most hateful language can come out of the heart of someone claiming Christ as Lord, simply because of a difference of theological stance or political philosophy.

God has helped me to see that I have lived in un-addressed rebellion in much of my life, mostly in the way that I posture my heart toward authority. Looking over my past, I can’t think of a boss, pastor or leader that I have served under that I haven’t at some point and on some level despised in my heart and thought “I could do that better.” That attitude leads to criticism, coveting, and isolation. It eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the relationship breaks down.

Here’s the reality: Everything looks easy from far away. My pride has a really high opinion of me, too high in fact. I start to believe that I’m smarter, more gifted, or more capable than another human simply because I can see their weaknesses. I forget that I have my own weaknesses in spades.

How quickly I can forget that God is the one who puts people in authority (Rom. 13:1, 1 Pet. 2:13, 1 Tim. 2:2) and requires me to submit. God appoints leaders, not me. God wants me to trust him, and he puts authority in my life to teach and grow me. When I refuse to submit, I shortcut the character growth God is trying to produce in me.

Of course there are times when submission is not godly, and there are authorities who abuse power and need to be removed. But I’m not talking about dictators here, but people in my world that I just might not like that much. I’m not called to act as an agent of justice toward a person who is just…not like me.

The freeing part is that when we submit to the authorities God has placed over us, we live life in his economy, the way he designed us to live. Walking in obedience to the way God wants us to live opens up all kinds of doors. I will see people in a different light when I understand that their place of authority is one thing, their personality is another. God uses all kinds of people to do his work, and I won’t agree with all of them. God’s church is a body, and we all have different strengths. God’s not interested in me making everyone like me, he wants me to be more like him.

Maybe there’s someone in authority in your life that you struggle with. I’d challenge you to do the wrestling with God required to walk in obedience and let him use that person to make you more like Christ.

God Speaks in Vision and Pain

Image credit: http://www.dianacastillophotography.com/LANDSCAPE/i-qNfrjGW
Image credit: http://www.dianacastillophotography.com/LANDSCAPE/i-qNfrjGW

Have you ever wanted to hear God speak? It seems I find myself in that place quite a bit. Sometimes I feel like all I do is go through my routine, checking things off of my list while periodically “checking in” with God to make sure things are “all good.” That’s not much of a relationship. God designed us for much deeper fellowship than that. I need to be reminded of this often.

I read this this morning from Job 33:14:

“For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it…”

The verse grabbed my attention because I want to hear God speak to me. Elihu, the speaker in this passage, goes on to describe the first way God speaks:

“In a dream, in a vision of the night…he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man.”

So the first way God speaks is through dreams and visions. It should be noted that the context of this conversation is to try and figure out why all the bad stuff has happened to Job. His friends, all with varying opinions, try to counsel and advise Job on how he ended up in such a mess.

So the “speaking” here is really an intervention. If God really wants to get a person’s attention to warn him, Elihu says he will use a dream.

The second way God speaks is found in verse 19:

“Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones.”

Second way God wants to get our attention according to Elihu? Pain. The example here is physical pain, but any sort of pain will do. I have found pain to be extremely clarifying. Pain forces us to seek deliverance, and will ultimately bring us to seek God.

Let me clarify: I don’t think I can make a definitive theological statement that God always speaks to us through dreams and/or pain. Nor can I firmly assert that all dreams or all pain are sent from God to warn us about our pride. Sometimes we get hurt and it’s more about us that God (i.e. you stub your toe); sometimes a dream really is bad Mexican food.

What strikes me though is that the antitheses to dreams/visions and pain are distraction and comfort, and how we go to such great lengths to be sure we always have both.

I read recently that the CEO of Twitter asked a friend, “Do you remember what it was like to be bored?” These days distractions are endless and easy to come by. If you’re in line at the store or sitting at a red light, distractions are easier than ever to come by. Quiet, concentration and focus are some of the more precious commodities in our information age, and even still we tend to avoid them. Unfortunately, these are often required to hear God speak to us.

Pain is even more distasteful. We not only avoid pain at all costs, we avoid discomfort. I burn the inside of my mouth and think I should take a sick day. Our idea of pain is uncomfortable benches at a sporting event or AC that isn’t working at full capacity.

But discomfort raises our awareness of something no one is exempt from: need. We are all in need of deliverance, and the comfort of avoiding pain won’t do the trick.

Now, I’m not advocating that you should start basing your life decisions on your dreams or order a bed of nails from Amazon.com. Both would be…extremely inadvisable. But maybe our response to the words in this passage could lead us to run to God when we need direction or deliverance, instead of believing that something or someone else can fill the need. God is our loving Father, Path-director, and Comforter in all pain and sorrow. Let’s live like that’s true.