The years 2020 and 2021 have been marked by adversity and challenge. None of us escaped it, and many are still navigating seasons marked by unexpected transition, failure and disappointment. The global pandemic pulled the rug out from underneath us all, and it is now time to rise and find our footing once more. Though this season caught many of us by surprise, God knew it was coming, and He has been forming us through it all. He doesn’t waste anything.

Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-4 come to mind; “…we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” God will not waste our pain. Suffering can produce endurance, character, and hope in our lives if we allow it— what a great list of leadership development opportunities!
Growing and developing as leaders requires we first do our own work. Strengthening our “leadership” legs is vital so that when called upon, we can stand firm and rooted in the places we’ve been entrusted to lead.

Through my years of work as part of the collaborative writing team in developing the Friendzy Curriculum, a school-wide resource for students around emotional health, I have been personally impacted by the work. I’ve embraced and put into practice the social-emotional core competencies of self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. I’m sharing with you the practical ways they have been helpful in my formation journey. I believe these skill sets, coupled with the truth of Paul’s words in Romans 5, can produce a tenacious resilience in us to grow into the leaders that God has intended us to be in the world.

What if failure is not fatal but part of our spiritual formation as leaders? Let’s determine how we can embrace our formation instead of resisting it. Let’s press on to lead well.

SELF-AWARENESS

Before we can adequately lead others, Jesus must first lead us. Jesus is the perfect leader to follow. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is continually inviting people to drop what they are doing and follow Him. As we follow Jesus, He teaches us what it means to lead from a place of humility and service. There is often a stark contrast to how Jesus lives and how we live. Being willing to identify the gaps in our lives where growth is needed requires self-awareness. Leaning into the work of Self-awareness may be the very thing that helps us to identify our emotions, acknowledge our own areas of suffering, allowing us to then bring them to Jesus so He can heal us. Let’s not be ashamed of our suffering or failures, trying to run from them. Don’t let them go to waste. See them. Feel them. Own them. And then bring them to Jesus to heal.

SELF-MANAGEMENT

Another word for self-management is self-discipline. As we identify where God invites us to lead, we must develop discipline and perseverance, a key part of our leadership formation. Sometimes we have to try once more, even after we fail. Begin again. Respond in obedience to what God has asked. Start writing, set up the meeting, submit that proposal, apply for the job….be faithful to do the next thing God instructed. It is okay to be scared, but don’t let fear have the final say. Do it anyway. It is crucial to be faithful to the work regardless of status or platform. Do it as an act of obedience, which helps take the pressure off and allows joy to return. In co-laboring with God, we partner in bringing about His Kingdom’s purposes on the earth. Strength and character develop in places of anonymity. Be faithful, steward what God has placed in your hands, and do not despise small beginnings.

RESPONSIBLE DECISION MAKING

When we struggle, suffer, or fail, it is an opportunity to develop resilience. It is vital to ask the question, “what didn’t work?” In analyzing and reflecting on failed situations, is a new solution emerging in how to proceed? As we grow as leaders, God will give us more to steward. Do the work now of stewarding the small things to develop grit, courage, and resolve, so you are ready to steward more later.

SOCIAL AWARENESS

When we do the work of owning our failures, bringing them to God to redeem and restore us, it produces empathy and develops our ability to see things from another’s perspective. Suffering and loss are great equalizers. As humans, there is no escaping them. Pain touches all of us at one time or another. Instead of avoiding suffering and denying its existence instead, let’s walk through it knowing that it has something valuable to teach us about our need for God and extending grace to others. Growing empathy and perspective-taking are critical parts of the leadership formation process.

RELATIONSHIP SKILLS

The healthiest leaders are the ones leading alongside others, allowing themselves to be known. There is wisdom in embracing our strengths and weaknesses and surrounding ourselves with others who possess what we lack. Collaboration is a beautiful picture of God’s design for His people. Communication and social engagement are necessary to build robust relationships to create something that will last. Studies reveal that we become like the people with whom we spend the most time. Surround yourself with leaders who will inspire you and hold you accountable to become the most healthy, whole, and Christ-like version of yourself.

Leadership is about growth and development. Becoming a leader and developing other leaders who have a heart for God’s purposes is fulfilling, lifelong work.

Allow failure to be the catalyst for leadership formation; it is the beginning of an inspiring story of resilience, perseverance, and hope, not the end of the road. Do not walk the road toward wholeness and emotional health alone. Invite trusted companions to partner with you in this work.

Living Wholehearted provides coaching, counseling, and leadership consulting to accompany you on your journey to wholehearted living. Invest in doing the work of becoming the kind of leader worth following and press on to lead well in the coming season.