Hi again! We are up to Leadership myth buster number 4, in this 6-part series. The purpose of this series is to coincide with the release of my new book “Ministry Stinks: One Leaders’ journey from despair to joy”. I’m really excited about this book, as an examination of the personal leadership journey I experienced in my time as a church leader and pastor, in which I faced many things that I know most aren’t prepared for personally. This is my attempt to give future leaders and pastors the upper-hand that some of us didn’t get.
So, todays myth under the microscope is: “Leaders are positive”. In general, people like to be around positive people rather than negative. And so, it would make sense that leaders benefit from being positive and having a positive outlook. Also, when you are a visionary, which many leaders are attempting to be, by nature your outlook on the future is going to be positive. After all vision is a preferred future.
But what happens when you get hit for six by disappointment and discouragement? In my experience, as long as the enemy exists, it’s bound to come regardless of how positive you are. When discouragement or disappointment emerge, the desire to maintain ‘positivity’ can have a reverse effect. It has the same effect as a dismissive comment when you are genuinely needing help…which is not much. We often don’t have the resilience to handle such challenges, because the average civilian of the western world thinks their life is going to be good. Additionally, by having such absolute statements, we also can put this expectation on ourselves that causes us to deny discouragement to our detriment. And I’ve never known a single psychological reality in adulthood that benefits from denial. The outcome is: fake positivity that nobody buys…that deteriorates you internally.
Discouragement is very real. And it happens to most if not all leaders. Interestingly, despite being a champion of faith, the life of Paul demonstrates a time when he was also discouraged. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul says “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.” Sure, Paul would have been in the most extreme of circumstances that most of us will probably never be able to relate to. But still. He was real and acknowledged the difficulty that faced him. He didn’t project a fake positivity about his situation.
The fact is, that acknowledging discouragement gives you a much greater chance of understanding it and a hope of moving toward rebuilding yourself. And when you are able to deal honestly with discouragement, you also have a chance of becoming a more grounded and emotionally resilient leader than fake positivity can achieve.
If we are being really honest, we know all too well that attempts to fabricate positivity have ended with leaders walking away prematurely. So, I guess the real question is: How badly do we want to sustain ourselves in leadership? If your answer is the same as mine, then it would be wiser to face the truth of your situation and get some help.