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Leading Out of Your Iceberg

We go to seminars and conferences on how to do better strategic planning, cast vision, delegate, better manage conflicts and hire to our weaknesses. We read books on leadership and listen to podcasts on how to grow and expand our impact. That is good and commendable. I do those things myself. It is simply not enough.

Our executive leadership team at New Life recently had two half-day meetings around a recent difficult event that we experienced together. We resolved the leadership/organizational issue well, but I was painfully aware that profound “hot buttons” deep within our icebergs had been touched (i.e. issues coming out of our own early family histories). I knew God wanted me, and us, to stop and listen to Him. These “triggers” needed to be explored.

We dedicated two half-days together around two questions:

1) What painful issues from our own histories got touched, and;

2) What could each of us have done differently?

I brought in a former professor of mine who taught in my Doctor of Ministry program in marriage and family for one of those days. The process was fabulous. God came to each of us individually, and as a team.

Leadership offers a wonderful opportunity to mature into our true selves in Christ. That is good news. The bad news is that looking at our insecurities and vulnerabilities from our past can be terrifying — especially when it is triggered in present relationships. It is easier to simply blame and project my own shame, destructive automatic thoughts and wounds onto others. I was surely tempted to do so in this most recent challenge we faced as a staff.

I was reminded of a concept out of the therapy field called introjects. This refers to millions of film footages we take in growing up the first 10-15 years; we then organize ourselves around certain key themes. For example, it may be:

  • rejection
  • abandonment
  • constantly put down/criticized,
  • feeling invisible
  • incompetent/dumb
  • impotent

These emotions and thoughts become part of the self-concept and the “lens” through which we see life. We unconsciously look to create and repeat these negative experiences, especially in more intimate relationships like marriage and the church. It leads to all kinds of gross misinterpretations and assumptions.

The grace and love of Jesus Christ offers us safety and freedom. But it is only in taking the counterintuitive journey of letting down my defenses before others, as I did the last couple of weeks, that I realize my immense need to saturate myself in the gospel. I also realized afresh how much more remains within my own iceberg, and my need for His mercy.

What do you think might be the long-term benefits of looking at our process of leadership this way? What are the difficulties in doing this?