In Matthew 15:19, Jesus warned that “. . . out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
Can you think of anyone who derailed his or her organization or career because of anything on that list? I’ll bet you can. In fact, I know far more stories of failure rooted in these issues than those resulting from a lack of competence or skill.
The simple truth is that leaders who fail to monitor their hearts jeopardize their organizations. If we neglect the arduous work of monitoring what’s going on inside of us, our organizations will suffer.
Look at Jesus’ words again. Everything we say and do springs from our hearts. The implications of this verse are huge for those who manage people. What’s in our hearts eventually affects our ability to lead effectively. Consequently, learning to guard our hearts is critical to our success as leaders. There are three things in particular that if ignored have the potential to create chaos in the heart of a leader and, consequently, in his or her sphere of organizational influence.
The first is guilt. Leaders that carry unresolved guilt are forced to hide a part of themselves from those closest to them. They have secrets. They expend time and energy ensuring that no one finds them out because they know they are not completely trustworthy. And because they are suspect, they begin to suspect others. Their inability to trust others makes it almost impossible for them to build cohesive teams.
The second enemy of the heart is anger. Angry people live as if the world owes them something—something they can never quite identify. Angry leaders are impossible to please. They attract employees that are more concerned with making their bosses happy than doing what’s best for the organization. This leads to poor decisions, eventually putting them at odds with their angry bosses and the cycle of dysfunction continues.
The third heart issue that can derail a leader is jealousy. Professional jealousy is understandable, maybe even unavoidable to some extent. But when it is unrecognized and ignored, it has the potential to destroy the synergy of a team. Jealous leaders measure their success by the failure of others. An organization cannot sustain momentum when its leadership is focused on how well others are not doing rather than looking for ways to move forward. Maybe most crippling of all, leaders who carry jealousy in their hearts rarely surround themselves with competent and talented people. They feel threatened. And their insecurity stifles the growth all organizations need.
If you can identify with the ailments cited above, welcome to the human race. We all wrestle with guilt, anger, and jealousy at some level. That’s why we need a Savior. The good news is that through Christ we can bring these enemies of the heart under control. They might never be eliminated, but they certainly don’t have to control our lives or contaminate our organizations.
If you have a secret, tell somebody. Confess. Confession eradicates guilt. Chances are you’ve confessed to God. Now go confess to the person you’ve wronged. Angry? Forgive. Forgiveness is simply a decision to cancel a debt. Take time to decipher what you think the people who’ve hurt you owe you and cancel those debts. Otherwise, you will make the people closest to you pay. Jealous? Look for ways to celebrate the successes of people who’ve pulled ahead of you. Write ’em a letter. Praise their accomplishments in public. Refuse to allow jealousy to take up residence in your heart.
The writer of Proverbs summarized it this way, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” You live from the heart. You love from the heart. And yes, you lead from your heart. So pay attention to your heart. It impacts everything you do.
Adapted from Enemies of the Heart (Multnomah Books: 2011) by Andy Stanley. Article used with permission. Find more great leadership content at CatalystSpace.com. Catalyst and the annual Conferences provide next generation church leaders with creative insights on organizational and personal leadership.