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My most difficult leadership challenge

I have great difficulty leading … me.

No matter who you are, how much money you make or what your life has brought, you are a leader. Since leadership brings influence, you (and I) have responsibility to lead others in a healthy and productive way. Unfortunately, we cannot do that if we first aren’t leading ourselves, and that is perhaps the most difficult of tasks.

Here’s something that has been challenging me as of late: the organization I lead will only grow as much as I do. I love that. I hate that! Unfortunately, I believe that. By “organization,” I don’t necessarily mean KTIS-FM, although that is part of who I am. I also lead my wife, two children (ages 15 and 12), a small group Bible study from church and my son’s basketball team.

I’m not any busier than anyone else. I’m also not more important than anyone else. We all wear many hats and juggle numerous responsibilities. I also have no right to speak into your life. You don’t know me—I don’t know you.

But if you would be so kind as to allow me, I’d like to challenge you. Think about this: Whatever your “organization” is, the people you lead and the loved ones with whom you have been given influence are counting on you to develop your leadership skills (and your spiritual muscles), so that they can also grow in their leadership. It’s a “leadership trickle-down”—they’re depending on you!

So, how are things?

The ultimate success of a leader is determined by how well he or she masters the inner life. You know, the stuff that is going on deep down inside of you that only you and God are aware of. We can mask it, we can hide it, and we can tell ourselves that it’s not really there. But unless we give attention to it daily, we are unable to build a firm foundation from which we can exercise our influence.

I’m not much of a handyman and that’s a generous understatement. I am horrible at anything that requires a fix. It’s honestly embarrassing how bad I am at it. Whenever I try to repair something, I destroy something else and am left with two messes I have to pay a professional to clean up.

Have you ever tried to raise a window on the top floor of a home only to find that it sticks? Experts say that when a window jams while opening it, it is a sign of a foundation problem.

In my limited knowledge on the issue, I assumed that a flooded basement, not an upstairs window, was the sign of a faulty foundation. You know, something big, drastic and obvious that would help justify why I have water up to my ankles. Not being able to open a small upstairs window? No, that wasn’t on my radar for what could become a big, expensive problem underneath my house.

It’s true in our lives, too. We secretly make one bad decision that may seem small at the time, but it’s evidence that we have a problem in our foundation.

Most of what we do is seen by others and is “above ground.” We make public decisions every day, and it’s no secret what those decisions are. But then there is the foundation, work that is not seen by all—or by any.

Giving attention to the issues of self-leadership will enable us to build a firm foundation from which we can exercise leadership on everyone in the various “organizations” in our lives.

As difficult as it is, we need to constantly and consistently be working on our foundation, every day. I think we’ve all seen headlines recently that prove that too many cloak-and-dagger decisions eventually pile up, and then our basement floods and our secrets aren’t secret anymore.

And while it’s easy to look at someone else and judge how well they are leading themselves, it’s more difficult to apply these principles ourselves.

How’s your foundation?



— by Jason Sharp

Sharp is station manager of 98.5 KTIS in the Twin Cities. Follow him on Twitter @KTISjason.