Leading from Inside Out

As leaders, we focus on what we do and how we do it. We are looking for results, especially in the form of seeing God change lives. We are absorbed by strategy, planning, making decisions, dealing with conflict, helping and caring for people and so much more. However, far too many leaders neglect their inner life. I could fill a page with the names of famous people who were doing amazing things, were loved and respected by many; but neglected their soul, their motivations, compulsions, passions, needs and their character. Even pastors, who talk all the time about the inner life, are well known to have neglected what’s going on inside! Jesus’ harshest words were toward the hypocrites (Matthew 23) who focused on the outward and neglected the inner life.

So leaders concentrate on the whats and hows, but too seldom do we address the why; especially the whys inside us (see Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle). What causes me to do something or not? What is my passion and purpose for what I do? What motivates me is often unconscious and thus a blind spot. Yet, the most powerful parts of our personality, and thus leadership style, are tied not to what we actually say or do, or how we act; rather, it’s tied to why we say or do or act the way we do. Motivations are so powerful and left unaware or unchecked, they can be disastrous. Knowing what motivates us is critical to good self-awareness, which is a critical part of being a healthy person and leader. Self-awareness is essential if we want to avoid personal disaster and want to change.

Maybe there is an aspect of your personality or leadership style you are aware of that you want to change. How do you change it? How do you become a better leader or parent? Most of us opt for “behavioral modification.” That’s when we focus on changing a behavior. In the realm of faith, we often call this “sin management.” That rarely works for very long. Why? Because behind the behavior is a motivation. The motivation, or compulsion, is more powerful than the behavior. So you can sincerely desire to eliminate the habit, sin or behavior; but if the passion is still there, it trumps the effort to control the behavior. If you want to change the behavior, change the motivation that’s inside.

So we invite God to help us change the inside motivation or passion, which leads to outer change. Real lasting change is an inside-out job. It needs to be in that order. God’s truth and God’s Spirit together are the best inside-out change agents ever. We have to be willing to cooperate and collaborate with God to bring about inner and thus outer change.

I could write a book on how we cooperate and collaborate with God to experience growth and change. In fact, such books have been written. But let me address a starting point: What I’ve observed is that most inner issues stay unconscious. They are a part of our blind spots. That’s why I try to mentor and help our leaders grow in their self-awareness. I did a 12 minute video on self-awareness that you can watch to learn more.

Creating self-awareness to discover the inner dangers that lurk below the surface takes intentional effort. Asking for feedback in humility is a basic and standard way to grow your self-awareness. Really listening to others helps us discover our own blind spots. Prayerfully asking God to reveal your less than ideal motivations is vital. I’ve also found for myself that one of the things that is so helpful for me is to use some effective tools that help identify who I am.

There are a bunch of quality tools available. I’ve used the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI) for almost 40 years. I love the Leading from Your Strengths, RightPath, Clifton Strengths (formerly Strengthsfinder) and DISC assessments. All are helpful.

There is one tool that is extremely helpful at getting to the level of motivation and the interior issues of passions, fears and needs. This tool is called the Enneagram. The Enneagram helps you identify your blind spots, since it is so hard to see your own compulsions that create your false self which in turn can hinder you and trip you up. Over time, this tool helps you to grow spiritually and reconnect with the voice of God and his grace that can lead you back to your true self, your “home space” or true type. This tool helps you see that you are not your “gifts”, rather that your identity is that you are first a child of God with unique gift sets. It can help you rediscover the way of Jesus based on godly motivations in your unique personality.

The Enneagram is a valuable tool for your own self-awareness. The process of becoming aware can help you to disbelieve and discard the false self illusions and rediscover your true self based on godly motivations. But beware! The Enneagram will make you uncomfortable. It will challenge you in very vulnerable ways as it helps you uncover the motivations behind our behaviors.

There are tons of resources online to help you explore your Enneagram type. There are many free and for fee Enneagram tests on the internet (see below). Don’t rely only on the tests alone. Because we are influenced by our false self, we can mis-represent ourselves and our motivations when answering the questions. Use the tests to narrow down your basic or main type to a few. Remember, you have a main type, but there are other types that might in fact reflect key aspects of your unique personality.

Take your time to discover your true type. As Alice Fyling suggests: “Date the Enneagram.” Do the work and take the time by taking the tests, reading the reports, and using some of the books and resources below. Ask someone who knows you and loves you to give you feedback. The discovery of your true self is a spiritual journey, not a one-stop event. If you’d like to explore more on the Enneagram, here’s the link to a 16 page Enneagram Overview that I’ve written and developed from some of the sources below:

Enneagram Tests:

My Top Four Favorite Books:

Other Resources:

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