Let’s say, for whatever reason, you need to create or update your resume. You do some online research and discover how to give it a modern look. You see that some resumes utilize a tagline under the person’s name. If Thomas Edison were to create a resume today, he might put as a tagline – The World’s Most Prolific Inventor. If the former NFL player Antonio Brown were updating his tagline he might be tempted to put – I’m Great Even If No One Likes Me. If I were to choose an honest tagline, it would look like this:

Glen A. Elliott

The Incomplete Package

No potential employer would read further. They might laugh thinking it is a joke. Well, the fact is that I’m actually not the complete package. There are things I’m just not good at. There are things I don’t know how to do. And you are not the complete package either. While I don’t suggest that you put this on your resume, it is nonetheless a reality that every leader, employee, and human has to face. No husband or wife is the complete package. No parent is the complete package. And every pastor must know this about himself or herself. 

But it’s funny how we isolate this reality and try to believe that we are the complete package. Or maybe we think, given enough time, we can become the complete package. We want to have the knowledge, skills, experience, and wisdom to be able to tackle any problem, any challenge and be able to lead as the complete package. It’s a myth! No one is the complete package, in any context.

In my last blog, I spoke about brokenness. Here was how I ended that blog – “I must do what I cannot do with what I don’t have for the rest of my life.” If you’ll take a few minutes and reflect on that sentence, you’ll see how profound it really is. I know that God has called me to lead, and I must lead as well as I can. But I have to lead knowing that I’m broken, incomplete, and limited. How is that possible to lead knowing that we are not complete, that we are broken and have weaknesses? What does that do to our leadership if we embrace that reality? How will others see us if we own that?

It starts with humility (see The Greatest Trait and Level 5 Leaders blogs). In humility, we are able to look honestly at ourselves and see that we can’t do it all well. Humility allows us not only to recognize but to publicly admit, that we have weaknesses. Then, in humility, we empower and allow others to do what they do well that compliments our weaknesses. I’m a leader. I lead best when I invite, empower and collaborate with others who have knowledge, personality traits and skill sets that I don’t have to accomplish what I could never do alone. Humility uses what resources and power I have to empower and celebrate what others have that I don’t. Humility knows that we are better together.

With good self-awareness, we identify our weaknesses. Some of those weaknesses are in our personality. The reason why we have so many different personalities (Thank God!) is that every person has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. I’m very strong at logic and being objective. I’m weaker when it comes to focusing on the power of feelings in different contexts… and that’s a huge weakness. So with that awareness in humility, I choose to surround myself with people who are strong where I’m weak. 

For example, I’ve developed a teaching team at our church. We review and give feedback and input to each other’s Sunday messages. I have been intentional to invite people on that team that have strengths in areas of my weakness. I need their perspective and help. By the way, that’s touching the deepest kinds of diversity. Not only do I seek gender, generational and racial diversity, but also the diversity of personality, skills, knowledge, and experience.

Because none of us is the complete package, we have to surround ourselves with folks who can and want to do things in a far better way than we can. Then we have to trust them and empower them to live out their giftedness to balance our weaknesses. 

Leader, it’s okay to not be the complete package. Don’t beat yourself up over what you don’t have and don’t do well. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to another leader that does it better than you. Don’t be tempted to try to make your weaknesses into strengths. Research and experience tell us that doesn’t work. Just make sure you don’t let your weaknesses trip you up and hurt your organization. That’s why you bring others into the picture who can help fill the places where you lack. That helps you and honors them. Surround yourself with people who can fill in the crack in your leadership, abilities, and knowledge. You have to be intentional and purposeful in this.

Remember – We must do what we cannot do with what we don’t have for the rest of our life. We just don’t have to do it alone. That’s why I want to be yoked to Jesus and walk with him (See Matthew 11:28-30). That’s why I want to walk with others. 

We are broken. There’s nothing that sounds good about that. I AM broken.  I’m weak. I fail. There is sin in my life. My temptation is to resent it or run from it. But brokenness is a part of me that God can use to draw me to Himself. In my weakness, I make room for God to work in changing my heart.  Let me share a scripture and a testimony that crystallizes this for me.

2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 (May I encourage you to really meditate on these verses)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Mike Yaconelli – “Finally, I accepted my brokenness… I had never come to terms with that.  Let me explain. I knew I was broken. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I continually disappointed God, but I could never accept that part of me.  It was a part of me that embarrassed me. I continually felt the need to apologize, to run from my weaknesses, to deny who I was and concentrate on what I should be.  I was broken, yes, but I was continually trying never to be broken again – or at least to get to the place where I was seldom broken…

“… it became very clear to me that I had totally misunderstood the Christian faith.  I came to see that it was in my brokenness, in my powerlessness, in my weakness that Jesus was made strong.  It was in the acceptance of my lack of faith that God could give me faith. It was in the embracing of my brokenness that I could identify with others’ pain, not relieve it.  Ministry was sharing, not dominating; understanding, not theologizing; caring, not fixing.” [pg 54 of Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning]

What is brokenness? – “Roof off to God and walls down before others.” 

Interdependent

No comparisons

You are you.

In January of 2007, I assumed the role of Lead Pastor at Pantano Christian Church. In preparation for the transition, my wife and I attended a rigorous intensive leadership assessment and development event. It was an intense three days. 

When we arrived at the bed and breakfast, the team wasted no time and jumped in. They quickly drilled down to some issues. They gave me a label that was very helpful – “stormtrooper.” I actually liked it! I’m a take-charge kind of guy. I want to take the hill. The mission is all-important. I love challenges and risks. We all agreed that the label was accurate. But they also said the label was not complete. There was something missing. That something hurt my ability to lead well.

What was the missing piece?  My guides started to give me direction. One of the guides talked about what he called “leader’s disease.” He suggested that the root of the dangerous disease of leaders is position, power and blind self-confidence.  He referred to Mark 8:33 when Peter rebuked Jesus who suggested that spiritual victory would come through perceived “weakness” found in suffering and death. Jesus makes it clear that Peter did not have God’s interests, but man’s interests as foremost. 

The first day they asked me to write a cohesive and comprehensive model of leadership heavily dependent on biblical elements. I spent hours that night, after everyone else went to bed, reflecting and searching the New Testament again about leadership. I began to notice some patterns that I had somehow missed. Then it hit me hard. The part I was missing was the brokenness piece. I saw it over and over in the Bible. I saw it in Jesus and in Paul. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:3 – “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.”  Again in 2 Corinthians 12:9, he said; “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.” You never hear leaders to that! God’s powerful and effective leaders were broken folks.

I made a list of the words that the New Testament leaders (particularly Paul) used in a leadership context. The list contained: humbled, broken, nothing, weak, inadequate, foolish, lowly, “not”, not equal to task, suffering, persecution, hard work, tears.  This was not how I had lived out leadership or even my personhood.

Like most leaders, I want to control life. I’ve been hurt and wounded (some of us will do anything to not admit that). As an Enneagram 8, I don’t want anyone to control me. Control is a way to deal with and protect ourselves from pain. We choose different means of control – self-medicating, running over people, using anger, and staying busy – a million ways.  That control becomes our identity, but it doesn’t work. And our leadership is diminished.

As I sat there in the dark of night at the bed and breakfast, I realized I had to confess that I have resisted being broken all my life. I liked being independent and self-sufficient. I was a stormtrooper after all. I had resisted being broken by God. I had been unwilling to admit that I’m weak at times. I compensated by being strong, impervious, competent. That last one – competence – that was my firm foundation. I made sure no one would ever call me incompetent, which for me was the ultimate sign of weakness! 

So the label “stormtrooper” was accurate of the get-it-done leader that God had created me to be. I’m addicted to results and love tasks. While I was admired, I didn’t allow others to love me. Ouch! Some good friends over the years had tried to say that to me, but I didn’t get it. I probably even assumed that God admired me – but had I let him really love me? I had left God out of the deepest parts of my heart where there is real pain and aloneness. That’s the way stormtroopers are, you know.  

That day I began a new journey. It’s a journey that is never finished. It is a journey that allows Jesus to be with me in my weakness, inadequacy, and brokenness that moves me toward interdependence.  

But what really hit me was what Brennan Manning said in Abba’s Child – “The unwounded life bears no resemblance to the Rabbi.” That’s the whole goal of life – to be like Jesus. Maybe the greatest tragedy in life is not dying before we die. Without a broken heart, we miss the real power of God that changes us and make us really useful to advance his kingdom. It is only through a broken heart that God can and will reveal his character and power. That was missing in my life and leadership.

The team at the bed and breakfast decided I was in fact ready for a new title – “wounded stormtrooper.” I’m still a stormtrooper. But I don’t fight hiding the wounds like I once did. I don’t mind leaning on others who fill my missing pieces in leadership. More and more, I like being a limping stormtrooper. There are even times when I’m a tearful stormtrooper.  

Broken leaders can understand the pain of others and connect in powerful ways.  Limping leaders need others and create an environment for real collaboration. Broken leaders become fertile ground for true discipleship (learners) as God can shape and form them as pliable clay.  Yet, they still lead and with others take the hill. I’ve discovered that others really like following a wounded stormtrooper.

I continue to learn that leaders are relational influencers. We influence not by taking the hill but by leading others to take the hill through transparent, vulnerable relationships. Amazing collaboration can’t happen without authentic connections with the team. Leaders will never really empower and free others on the team to soar if they live in independence and on their strength alone.

Great leaders are broken. Yet, I’ve come to see over and over again that strong leaders, like me, fight brokenness. To be broken just feels like weakness and thus failure as a leader. But “broken” and “leader” are not antithetical concepts in leadership. They are not only complementary, they are essential partners. Jesus needs wounded stormtroopers to join him, the consummate wounded stormtrooper, to bring the kingdom that is in heaven to earth.

Here is my astonishing conclusion:  I must do what I cannot do with what I don’t have for the rest of my life. How? Trust in God and others. Identity, significance, position, recognition, competence, and success can actually block what God can do through me. When I remain strong, ministry becomes as small as I am. When I am weak and broken, ministry can be as big as God is.