Have you ever stopped to think about your unique leadership skills? This is episode 19 and in today’s podcast, I’m helping you discover three ways you can utilize what makes you unique so you can lead others better.
In This Episode
In this episode, we talk about your unique leadership skills. Leadership can be a long and lonely journey if we let it. However, it can also be a thrilling adventure that transforms everything it touches. In the mundane experiences of life, we can lose sight of this. We can also lose sight of this in the chaos. So how do you balance the two? How do you prepare yourself to experience everything life has to offer as a leader?
By knowing what makes you unique.
By understanding your unique leadership skills, you’ll be able to see not just who your people need, but why you’re ready for the task at hand.
So let’s dive into how Moses used his experience in the desert to become exactly the leader the Israelites needed as they left Egypt.
Your Unique Leadership Skills
We’ve all been through experiences, educational endeavors, jobs, relationships, and circumstances that have shaped who we are. Sometimes we forget that those experiences give us a unique way to lead those around us. In this video, we’re going to look at Moses and see how his desert experience equipped him for the journey of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert.
1.) Moses lived in the desert.
Because of this, he how to find food, water, and shelter. He knew how to survive and help others do the same.
2.) Moses was 80.
Walked slowly and with a cane. A 25-year-old wouldn’t have walked slow enough to lead 2 million people. It was Moses’ advanced age and physical limitations that made him perfect for the job.
3.) Moses was humbled in isolation and cultivated a heart deep in the quality of wisdom he possessed.
He had time alone to think, contemplate, reflect, and integrate his experiences. We also see this ability modeled in others like David and Jesus. Integrating experiences into character and wisdom is a foundational leadership activity.
Dr. Justin Hiebert works with mission-critical leaders to accomplish the unimaginable. Justin knows that no leader needs more things to do, so he works with his clients to get the right things done. His clients rise above burnout, captivate their teams, and transform their communities. By engaging their hearts and minds, his clients unlock their full potential to be, do, and have it all. This affords them the ability to leave a legacy of influence and impact on the world. He is a husband, father, teacher, learner, and champion of joy. He resides in Bakersfield with his wife, four kids, two cats, and one dog. In his free time, he loves exercising, riding motorcycles, and doing anything outdoors.
Embedded within the fabric of the universe, there is a method to overcome difficulties, reframe obstacles as opportunities, and experience life-changing satisfaction no matter the circumstances. It starts, by finding joy in suffering.
I’ve written before about the phrase that’s guiding me this year. The idea to Choose Joy has radically reframed my life in the last year. No matter the circumstances, I’ve been able to experience less stress, closer relationships, a more vibrant community, more life satisfaction, and a stronger business.
It all started because I started to see joy in suffering.
That small shift has changed everything about my outlook in life.
Then, this morning, during my journaling time, I discovered the ancient secret that was at work.
Joy in Suffering
Paul, the ancient theologian and church planter, wrote to a group of churches in Rome. In the middle of his letter, he laid out the formula for growing as a leader.
Find Joy in Suffering
Use suffering to build endurance
Implement endurance to develop character
Display character to produce hope.
That’s it. That’s the formula. Four life-transforming steps.
But what I stumbled into a year ago, and realized concretely this morning, was the importance of step number one. You must first find Joy in suffering.
A Wilted Plant
Up until a year ago, I would have started at step two. I could fully admit I was suffering in life. At times it was in business. In other instances, it was personal. A time or two it was physically or mentally. Whatever it was, I could easily identify the suffering I was undergoing.
But far from joyful, I was bitter.
Resentful at the fact I had to suffer.
And I became determined to show my endurance, in spite of the odds, to build a character and be a person of hope.
And what I realized, was that if my life were a plant, it was alive, but severely stunted.
I have a pepper plant in my backyard that I planted in a shady spot underneath a tree. For two years, I have tended to that plant by faithfully watering and fertilizing it. So far, in two years, it has produced one small and misshapen pepper.
It wasn’t getting adequate sunlight. That was the missing component. A few weeks ago, I transplanted the pepper plant, and it is already doing much better. Same soil. Same water. Now with hours of sun every day.
My life in character was the same. Was I alive? Absolutely. Was I producing “fruit”? Some, but not enough, and not fully formed.
What was missing? The sunlight. For me, it was the joy in suffering.
Reframing My Mindset
A couple of years ago, I began this transformation to intentionally alter my mood and perception of life. I was tired of being angry, grumpy, and a disappointment to be around. I knew I was isolating others … and myself … from a fully developed character.
A year ago, that crystalized into the phrase choose joy.
Now, I see what that shift has so profoundly changed my life.
Finding the joy in suffering is what allows us to not just go through the steps, but to be fully developed and thrive. We will all suffer, and we can all utilize it to produce fruit that is beneficial to others.
But the difference between those that look wilted with poor fruit, and those flourishing with a bunch of fruit, is their ability to choose joy in the midst of that suffering.
The ability to have joy in suffering is a life-altering, and world-changing, a realization that benefits you and blesses others.
As a leader, do you find joy in suffering or are you a wilted plant producing weak fruit? The choice is yours.
That’s why it’s so important to slay your giants while you’re young.
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks.
Not only is she incredibly beautiful and funny, she’s also really, really smart.
I’m lucky she’s my wife.
We were talking about the importance of marked leadership growth and reflecting on the life of King David in the Bible.
Setting the Stage
I was walking her through a talk I was getting ready to give, and we were reflecting on what David’s life might have been like as he neared the end of his life.
A Forgotten boy to a ruler.
From shepherd to king.
Giant-slayer to sage.
Desert dweller to palace ruler.
As he neared the end of his life, he had to spend time reflecting on all that had transpired. A surprising amount is written about David in the Bible. We see his faith and folly as he is featured across the pages of Scripture.
Someone described as “a man after God’s own heart” has killed giants, led a country, been to war, stolen another man’s wife, committed murder, written songs, and experienced rebellion and treason from his own family.
Throughout it all, he remained committed to God and in trying to understand how to lead well.
And as my wife and I were discussing this, we were talking about the many ways in which his experiences of God may have changed, but the need behind them hadn’t.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to tell yourself, “Go take a nap!”
This is a continuing series. Today’s post is “Go take a nap.” In this series, we are examining leadership burnout and the steps you need to implement as a leader to avoid (and recover from) burnout.
Contain within the Hebrew Scriptures is one of my favorite stories of all time. Written like a great movie blockbuster, this story has it all.
The beginning of a revolution.
Elijah, a prophet to the nation of Israel is confronting the King. The wicked ruler Ahab has ravaged the lady with wife, the cruel and anti-God Jezebel. Elijah, the one urging the people to remain faithful to God, can only do so by confronting the King.
In 1 Kings 18, he does just that. After years of prophecy, it is time for action. Elijah emerges from a foreign town called Zarephath (which means ‘melting pot’, probably a sign that it had economic ties to military arms production).1 Elijah, a prophet of Israel, emerges from his hiding place, located inside of Israel’s enemy, from a town producing tools to destroy Israel, to tell the king it’s time to face the music. The nerve of Elijah.
Yet as we shall see, this will also set the stage for his coming burnout.
Elijah confronts the king, his evil wife Jezebel, and her wayward prophets of Baal in a showdown to determine the true ruler of Israel. A comedic set of circumstances follow.
Elijah seemingly gives the prophets of Baal every advantage. They get to build their altar first, perhaps ending the confrontation early if Baal shows up. They get to pick the best bull for the sacrifice, and they can have as long as they want to win the showdown.
After hours of worship and devotion to Baal, the prophets begin to tire. Elijah starts taunting them. Here, many translations limit the effectiveness of this passage by saying that perhaps Baal is busy traveling, deep in thought.
A better and more literal translation has Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal that perhaps they caught him while he was going to the bathroom. Baal would surely come to their rescue just as soon as he could finish relieving himself. How embarrassing!
After taunting the prophets, Elijah changes his tone. Now, he gathers the watching Israelites and begins to instruct them in the proper way to live. The drought the nation is experiencing is because of their inability and lack of desire to follow God. The drought will end when they realize this.
He rebuilds their broken altar, has the bull sacrificed, orders water poured on it, and prays to God to accept the sacrifice. Immediately, fire from heaven consumes the offering, the altar, and the water. The people are astonished.
Elijah orders the false prophets killed and murders over 400 people. Because of their faithfulness, the people will be rewarded with rain.
Elijah warns the king to prepare. After three years of no rain, it is about to become a torrential downpour!
At the conclusion of this story, Elijah is exhausted.
Additionally, the text tells us that Elijah then flees the scene and runs to another town that was twenty miles away.
It is here that Elijah falls victim to burnout. He has started to believe his own hype and self-importance. One author comments
“Elijah, in fact, is a vivid biblical example of Freudenberger’s observation that burnout “is the letdown that comes between crises or directly after ‘mission accomplished.’”… He expended a great deal of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in his conflict with the prophets of Baal…His success caused the Israelites and their king to come back to the worship of the only true God. Shortly after that incident, he expended more energy by climbing to the top of Mount Carmel, spending an intense period of time in prayer… and, when that prayer was answered…outran King Ahab’s chariot.”2
The story then tells us that Elijah is overwhelmed and wishes he were dead. He complains to God. To him, death is better than continuing down this path.
(On a side note, we see this in burnout all the time. It’s one leading reason why the highest spike in suicide happens on Sunday night as people start preparing to go back to a job they hate).
In words that I have come to use often on myself and others when they are feeling overwhelmed, I love God’s response.
After listening to Elijah he gives his two commands: eat something and take a nap.
Elijah, you just did something important. You accomplished a big goal. Then you ran twenty miles. You’re tired. Exhausted. Spent. Have some meat. Eat some bread. Drink some water. Then go take a nap. We’ll talk after that.
Elijah follows these commands, and wouldn’t you know it, he wakes up refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
We too need to hear these words. After significant challenges, we can fall victim to overwhelm.
Don’t listen to those voices!
In future posts, we’re going to look at specific ways to prevent and fight against burnout. For now, it is enough to know this: if you’re exhausted, eat something and then go take a nap. We can talk after that.
I learned the necessity of emotional intelligence like a child learning to walk. There was lots of hand-holding, many more tremendous crashes (often public), and more than a few bumps and bruises.
The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is like playing the piano. The greater the range, the greater the player.
As a pianist, my musical accomplishment is limited to chopsticks. On a good day, I might be able to find middle C.
For my wife, after some tinkering, she can learn to play fairly complex songs. She can tune her guitar, sing along as she plays, and is good enough to teach our children.
A world-class pianist can play amazing complex songs. The piano seems to come alive in their hands. Every technique is mastered. Each hammering of the keys is intentional. Everything ringing with a divine sound.
Emotional Intelligence works the same way. Emotionally immature people have a very limited range of keys to play from. Usually, they are the basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. A situation arises, and their keystrokes are limited. Everything triggers them to respond in simplistic ways.
I knew a man like this once. Though physically mature, the emotional range was limited. Within a split-second, he could go from happiness to anger. Worse than that (as someone who claimed to be a leader), there was little desire to change.
“I’m just this way. I’ve always been this way, I’ll always be this way. “
This limiting belief and limited emotional capacity will limit his leadership capacity.
Expanding The Emotional Range
Expanding emotional range happens with practice. Like each new key on the keyboard that a pianist can play, emotional range equips the leader for more situations.
Think of a strong emotion like anger. Those with limited emotional capacity experience lots of anger. The lack of self-awareness leads to them repeatedly pounding the same key over and over again.
They get cut off in traffic and are angry.
The restaurant takes too long to cook their food and they are angry.
Their child leaves their shoes in the middle of the floor and they are angry.
They are passed over for a promotion and are angry.
Their favorite team loses in the championship game and they are angry.
Bothered by the amount of trash in the local park, they are angry.
Like a new piano player, they keep hitting the same note. Always angry, always looking for a reason to explode, always at the ready to let everyone know how they feel.
In contrast to this, there are ranges of anger: annoyance, frustration, furious, exasperated, and bitter are a few examples. Each is a different key to more adequately express the current emotion.
Do your child’s shoes in the middle of the floor really make you angry or are you annoyed because you tripped over them?
Does the missed promotion make you exasperated because you worked hard and thought you earned it?
The more keys that are available to us as leaders, the better we can navigate the situations around us.
The thing about leadership is that it is never a finished journey. New experiences and new insights lead to new emotional experiences.