Leadership is hard + 6 more secrets leaders won’t admit

Leadership is hard. Really hard.
 You read that right. Though there are incentives to lead and often perks that go along with influence, it doesn’t make being a leader any less challenging.

Leadership and the influence it carries has a way of isolating those who use it to serve. Many who serve in positions of influence feel the weight of responsibility, but also the loneliness that tends to come with it.

Some have said, if a position of influence is a lonely place, then it proves you have done something wrong. Maybe you’ve structured your leadership in a way that couldn’t help but push you to the front, and now you find yourself alone, carrying the burden, shouldering the load.

Frankly, there are situations in which this is true, but I believe for the majority, it is not.

The vast majority of leaders will exercise their influence in small or medium sized organizations or settings where the structure is already set up to push them into this isolation. Indeed, we find this in many small to medium sized churches where the pastor is pressed into a place of isolation because it’s simply the way things are (I’m not saying things should stay this way).

But we also see this influence issue going on with many other types of people and circumstances. By the way, if you are a Christian, then you ARE a leader by default. The reason being that Jesus has called all of us to influence and affect the lives of people around us.

Your life has a tremendous impact that you might not even realize, and you should use your influence for the purpose of raising up, building up, and encouraging those around you, whether family or friends. However, as the title of this article states, “leadership is hard.”

Leadership is hard for the single moms and dads who are doing their very best to lead and influence their children. It is hard for the little league coaches who have to do everything right, so they don’t upset all the people who are “on their team.” Leadership is hard for the business owners who have to choose to do things right in a world that invariably pushes you to get ahead by doing things wrong. Leadership is hard for the school teachers who do their best to display their faith in an environment of ever-increasing hostility towards religion.

And yes, leadership is hard for those of us in the ministry who must choose to be leaders of influence and integrity even if our stands make us feel isolated, weighted, or conflicted.

This post is an attempt to open up to other leaders, no matter the size of your circle of influence, and let you know you are NOT alone.

The burden you carry is common to us ALL. We all feel it…take courage in this my friend.

Let me be clear, I love being a leader, and I love being a pastor, but influence comes with hardships. They are part of the package. Now, this isn’t a complaint, though at first, it might seem to be, rather it is a simple observation. Moreover, it is something I’ve personally experienced.

So allow me to pull back the curtain and reveal some secrets that most leaders and people of influence will never want to share.

Leadership is hard.

I know I’ve already mentioned this one, but it’s the main point. In so many ways, a leader has to do things that they often feel ill-equipped to handle. Whether the situation is in ministry, social settings, or even the secular world. Godly leaders are not immune to hardship.

Scripture bears this out through the greatest leader who ever lived.

Jesus faced all sorts of problems, questions, decisions, and even death. Did he always know the right answers or the right direction? That question could be an in-depth discussion, one that I’m not going to take the time to pursue in this article. But let me offer this thought…Jesus prayed about everything.

If Jesus, the One who become God in the flesh, had to take the time to refill his leadership bucket through prayer, it should speak volumes to us.

Most leaders want to quit. (At some point)

Have you ever had a “quitting moment?” I have. In fact, I’ve had many over the years.

Most leaders will want to quit at some point. The load is just too big for them. The problems feel too immense. There are going to be those who suffer difficulties in relationships. Misunderstandings abound in leadership.

If you’re a leader who sees quitting as the best option, you’re in good company.

One time I had the opportunity to hear a great pastor say, “You can want to quit. You can dream of quitting. You can plan on quitting. But don’t quit.”

There are moments in which you need to let your mind realize that you don’t have to do what you’re doing. You really can quit anytime you want to. But after you’ve indulged that thought for a moment, you simply have to make a strong new resolve not to quit.

The truth is quitting for real won’t get you anywhere. So don’t do it. Use it as the final option. We know from scripture that all influence is positioned and ordained from God. That means your influence and position came from Him too. Don’t be so quick to give up because of something that will pass.

Leaders often don’t have the answers they need.

I believe one of the reasons leaders want to quit, is because they think they should have all the answers.

Look, you don’t have all the answers, and you never will. Exercising influence is an action of faith. You have to trust God to LEAD YOU. Leaders don’t just influence, they must BE influenced.

As a person of influence, whether you’re a parent, spouse, pastor, business person, or anything else, you have to allow yourself to be influenced. Certainly, the greatest influence in your life should be God.

He leads us through his word and prayer, but also through other believers. God leads you to open your mind to new ideas contained in books and articles like this one. You are also influenced by the company you keep.

All through the Bible, you find great men and women of God, seeking direction in the midst of the fog. They needed clarity and were not afraid to ask for it.

Listen…at the moment you may be up against an obstacle you don’t know how to overcome, and that’s OK. If you think about it, leadership is all about the unknown.

For example, think about explorers who are literally cutting a trail through the forest. Invariably someone is pushed to the front of the line. Everyone behind them can walk on a cleared path, but the leader is the one making the trail. By definition, leadership means you don’t always see the way ahead of you clearly. There are no waymarkers saying, “do this, go here, choose this way.” You have to get comfortable trusting God in the unknown.

Faith and trust in God are the language of leadership and influence.

Leadership is very lonely.

No one wants to admit a weakness. We run from showing our faults and being real, but when it comes to leadership you’ve probably already found out that loneliness is part of the deal.

I think there’s a clear reason this is so. Leadership and positions of influence require responsibility, and most people simply won’t be responsible.

Leadership is lonely because of the decisions, the weight, the responsibility, and the cost. But you have to remember, as a believer, you are NEVER really alone.

I know, I know…God is always with us. If you are feeling alone right now, and sincerely desiring to quit, then you most likely don’t want to hear this. Several years ago, I felt the same.

There was one season of my life that pressed my leadership to its limit. I didn’t think I could go on. In fact, I was looking into every possibility of getting out.
 But you know what? Along came God, and what he did surprised me. He didn’t encourage me at first, but instead, he broke me. So much so that he broke open my heart. I still remember the hot tears filling my eyes and rolling down my cheeks as I broke before God.

The reason he breaks us is to open our heart. To fix your loneliness, God must be able to get inside your heart and move things around. He wants access to the damaged and messed up parts of your life in order to fix them.

I will never forget the day God worked on my heart, because not only did it restore my faith and trust in him, but it also reignited my desire to lead others. Never since have I wanted to quit because I felt alone. I know he is with me and I know he’ll be with you too.

People often don’t see the work of leadership.

Let’s face it, you can’t see a leadership burden, can you? You can’t see the weight of responsibility that you feel. Others can’t see the prayers you pray, the nights of thinking and planning you do, or the desire to help people that you always feel in your heart.

You got into leadership to help people, but often that work goes largely unseen. A leader’s work is performed in a million little ways that, in the end, add up to something significant.

It’s hard to see your influence, until you see the effects of it.

So, it seems leaders are doomed to do work that goes unnoticed. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Practically every leader or influencer who ever lived has felt this way at one time or another.

If this speaks to you, you need to hang on to this one simple thought: What’s done in the dark is always revealed by the light.

What you’ve done is NEVER unnoticed. The Bible says, “God is NOT unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love” that you’ve shown for him. Everything you do is marked down in his book.

The truth is, again, leadership is hard, and the work of leadership takes time to bear fruit. People don’t see your work, but if you keep at it, they WILL see the fruit of your labor.

I used to wrestle over this when I was in my twenties. However, I’ve come to realize that my work will prove itself in time.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t hope for some appreciation because you should. You should be appreciated for the work you do because leadership is hard work.

I’ve learned to cut leaders some slack because I now understand that no one knows what they are facing.

I also know, because I’ve experienced it, that if you continue to plant good seeds, you’ll reap good fruit. Rest in the fact that God sees your work and he will openly reward you for it. For the record, the reward isn’t always what we though it might be.

God knows best how to appreciate those who labor in leadership for him. Whether as a Christian parent or as a middle school teacher who wants to influence their students with positive, faith-filled environments, God sees and will reward your work.

Influence derives from character.

I’ve never met a godly leader who tried to school me about how great his or her character is. Character doesn’t boast.

Nevertheless, if you are a leader who raises people up, builds them up, and encourages them to go forward, you possess character qualities which allow you to continue doing what you’re doing.

Influence doesn’t come from a position. A title comes from position. But titles and influence are entirely different from one another, though they don’t have to be.

If you are a leader that wants to increase your influence, you need to work on your character. One of the secrets of great leaders is that they are people of great character.

Who you are will win out over who you hope to be…it’s the law of character.

Let me ask you a simple question: What actions could you take to move your character forward?

Are there habits that you need to form or relationships that you need to sever? Quite possibly I’m sure.
 Think about it, if influence derives from character, then instead of reading another leadership book to learn some new method of persuasion, why not begin working on the thing that matters most. Your character.

Leaders cannot depend on their personal strength.

This is the most important secret that leadership conferences and books will never tell you unless they are based on the right principles.

So often we try to do things ourselves, to fix our own problems, to right our own wrongs, or to turn things around by our own power, but you simply can’t.

The secret to lasting leadership and influence is learning to depend on the strength, power, and help of Jesus.

Secular leaders will shun this idea.

Frankly, you CAN lead by your personal power for a season; no one ever said you couldn’t. Eventually, though, you’ll run out of steam when you lead through only your personal power or ability.

All power is given. Contrary to what we might think or believe that we see, power is never grabbed, taken, or robbed. Power is ONLY given. The source of all power is God. He is the center of everything. So this means godly leaders must rely on the genuine source of power if they are to succeed (the definition of success is an entirely different subject).

Your dependence on God is a clear sign of the strength of your relationship with God.

Let me ask you another question: How is your relationship with God doing?

What actions could you take to move your relationship with God to a new level? Everything about godly leadership stems from this one thing.

I encourage you to ease your stress by giving it away to the one who was meant to carry it in the first place.

I sincerely hope you’ve heard my heart in this post. You are a great leader. Don’t allow the wrong thinking, discouragement, and weight to drag you down.

We need you.

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I’d love to get to know you more. You can do that right HERE.

Originally published at larryshankle.com on January 13, 2017.