Last week I attended a conference for church leaders, pastors, and church planters. I went looking to be refreshed and encouraged. I wanted to grow as a leader. I was hoping to get some new tools to lead and minister better. I expected to leave the conference energized and excited to get back and get to work…applying the things that I had learned.
Those things didn’t happen. But, something else did.
I’m not sure if it was the goal of the conference or not, but there were two themes that permeated every speaker’s talk. Two things that they continued to go back to time and time again. Two truths that exist in the life of most, if not every, leader’s life. And, they’re two realities about the life of a leader that I sincerely wish weren’t true.
The first is that leadership comes with pain.
Pain for a leader comes from lots of different places and looks different for every leader…but it’s there. There’s pain from the betrayal of someone that you thought was a good friend. Pain of criticism from people that have no idea what you’re going through. Pain from gossip and assumptions about something that happened that you can’t speak about, so people draw their own conclusions as the truth.
And, the hardest part of the pain that leaders experience is that we often don’t deal with it in a healthy way. We allow it to either make us bitter or apathetic. We either stuff it down or compartmentalize it until it causes us to explode – in anger or in some emergency health condition. Or, we numb out to it all. We just stop feeling. We think it’s a noble reaction to pain, but it actually causes us to disconnect from the people that we’re leading and puts us in a place where we have no deep relationships.
And, that brings me to the second reality about leadership that I wish wasn’t true – leadership is a lonely endeavor.
Loneliness for a leader is actually a worse reality than pain. But, all too often, leaders are isolated and they have no one to turn to…especially when they need someone the worse. This isolation can be self-inflicted or circumstantial – both are not good. When we are by ourselves, we begin to believe things that aren’t true and we begin to make decisions that aren’t healthy or good for us.
Unlike pain, we have the choice to be lonely or not. And, having friends will help us deal with our pain in a more healthy way. Far too many of us put cultivating relationships on the back burner with excuses like – I’m too busy, they won’t understand what I’m going through, and more. Relationships provide leaders with accountability. Friends speak truth into our lives and help us to have a proper perspective on what we’re going through.
The truth is that I’ve found myself thinking I’m the only one that experiences pain and loneliness in leadership. This conference helped me understand that I’m definitely not alone in these things. And, now that I know that, I can begin to do something about it.
Pain is a reality – but how I deal with it is up to me. Loneliness is a reality – but only if I let it be.
How about you? Can you relate to these two realities? Head on over to my Facebook page and let’s continue the discussion there…