These are the spaces where you have the greatest potential for impact because they are the people who you see for who they are- And they see you for who you are. They are the places that are the most challenging to lead because they are the people who you really see- And they see you.
To be a public figure is easy because people see what you present to them. Your followers don’t see or experience the worst parts of you. The outburst of frustration or the breakdown when things don’t work like you’ve expected. Your public persona can be whatever you want it to be.
But the people closest to you will see through all of that. They see the good, the bad and the ugly. And to make the most impact with your life, you’ll have to learn to lead even when your bad and ugly is on full display!
Maybe you’ve already gone through something where you’re weakness has been exposed, or you recognize that some of your quirks are leaking out to those closest to you. I get it! I’ve been in plenty of situations where I feel like my weaknesses are causing my team to lose respect for me. Or, where my inability is affecting those that I care most about. Well, I’ve learned some lessons. Here are some helpful reminders for how to lead when you feel like a loser.
Remember You’re Not Alone
Here’s the deal, when you feel like your mess is spewing out and the people you lead are going to abandon you, pause. Take a breath. The first thing you need to realize is that you are not alone. Yep. Not only have some other leaders felt what you’re feeling, I would say that every other leader has felt the same way at some point.
I’ve felt it! I can remember one particular time when I was leading a small team. We were embarking on a redesign within our department. We started out with a bang as I cast the vision for where we were heading. But soon after, I started dealing with some personal issues. They had nothing to do with the task at hand, but that didn’t seem to matter.
By nature, I’m a pretty emotional person. And, at that time, the emotions from my personal life were spilling into my work life. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to contain it.
As a result, a beautiful thing happened. My team encouraged me. They caught me red-handed in the act of trying to hide my emotions and when I thought they would have lost all respect for me, they shocked me with their love. This was a gift to me because I suddenly went from feeling distant and removed from them, like as the leader I was somehow separate, to remembering that I was part of them. We were not only in the tasks together, but in life together.
Praise the Lord, that season eventually passed. And our team was stronger for it. We moved from having great working relationships to great relationships.
So, let me remind you. You are not alone. One of the challenges that leaders face, is that sometimes, the things they want to be least seen, end up being most obvious. It’s part of the job. And you are not alone on your team. Feeling vulnerable, insecure, overwhelmed is not just a leader thing; it is a life thing. Stop spending your energy trying to mask it all, and instead, allow people in.
Remember to Embrace Vulnerability
During the season I just mentioned, my initial inclination was to try even harder to hide the things I was walking through; to stuff it down as deep as I could. Well, I’m grateful that a wise mentor in my life suggested that I embrace the vulnerability.
Umm, what? No, thank you!
Let me remind you that the greatest leader of all, Jesus, was a pretty vulnerable guy. Mind you, He was Jesus, so He didn’t really have a lot in the weakness department, but He constantly did bold and courageous things that put Him in positions of vulnerability.
Read John 13:1-17. Jesus displays the power of vulnerability here. Now, I could teach on this passage for days, but I’ll just point out a few things.
First, His posture. Jesus takes of his outer garment. Basically, He gets into his underwear! Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty vulnerable. As He washes the feet of those closest to Him, the disciples, He crouches down in a kneeling position. Again, pretty vulnerable. Think about it… When you’re knelt down, it’s hard to defend yourself. And that’s exactly what Jesus does.
Next time you feel like you’re vulnerable, remember that the greatest leader, became the greatest servant. He didn’t protect Himself or hide Himself from His followers. Quite the opposite. He made Himself vulnerable before them, holding nothing back.
Secondly, His attention. Jesus washes the feet of all the disciples. Notice the passages says that Jesus knew that Judas’ scheme to betray Him was underway. Jesus washed His feet too. I think that’s an incredible picture of vulnerability.
Next time you feel vulnerable, remember that the strongest leaders, don’t compartmentalize what they offer. They offer their full self, the gift of their loving, serving, leading, to those they lead… even the ones who reject it. Don’t hold back on the gift of your leadership just because you might be betrayed or rejected. It was, in part, because of that betrayal that Jesus’ mission was accomplished. You don’t know how the negative experiences you face with vulnerability will transform the outcome of your destiny.
Finally, His actions. Notice what Jesus washes. The disciple’s feet. Typically, when we’re in vulnerable situations, our tenancy is to hide what is undesirable. The feet of these disciples would have been calloused and dirty from their sandals being on their many travels. They may have smelled. Or been unattractive. They didn’t hide their feet from Jesus, and Jesus push their feet away.
Next time you feel vulnerable, choose not to hide the ‘undesirable’ parts of yourself from your team… or from Jesus. Sure, work to improve them, but don’t push away the people closest to you out of fear or embarrassment. Jesus said to His disciples, “unless I wash you, you have no part in me.” The greatest things come through moments of vulnerability. What could happen if you let the people around you into the places that you’re most insecure about?
Remember to Move On
Here’s the deal. You may feel totally exposed and utterly vulnerable. You may feel like all the people around you can see are your weaknesses. Or, even like you are the one holding your team back. In reality, the people around you probably don’t see it the same way.
It may sound trite, but it’s true. Even when you feel totally exposed and utterly vulnerable about something, the people around you probably don’t notice. Frankly, they’re probably focused on their own insecurities and vulnerabilities.
As hard as it might sound if you’re currently feeling the weight of your insecurities, just choose to not focus on them. Instead, help your team focus on moving past their own insecurities. This will not only change the productivity and moral of your team, it will change their lives and improve yours.
So, how do you lead when you feel like a loser?
Remember that at some point, every leader has to come face to face with their vulnerabilities. The ultimate goal is to lead through them. In fact, you can lead with them and eventually move past them. They don’t have to hinder you or your team. In fact, you can step into vulnerable situations with great courage and know that inedible beauty can emerge from the moments that feel most challenging.
I’d love to hear from you. How have you handled your own insecurities or moments where you feel vulnerable?