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Don’t Let Selfish Ambition KILL Your Leadership

Most leaders are ambitious, or at least somewhat ambitious.

And some of that’s good and God-given.

But let’s ask an awkward, difficult and, at times, piercing question:

What motivates your ambition?

Mostly, I don’t like that question because I don’t like the answer to that question.

Sometimes my motivation is selfish.

Most of us secretly want to be better known, valued and appreciated than we are.

I know I’ve struggled with this over the years. When I was starting out in ministry, I wanted to be that guy who spoke at conferences and was well respected as a leader in ministry. You don’t talk about that kind of thing much, but if you were to gain access to my sinful mind, the thought spun around in my head from time to time.

It doesn’t matter what court you play on, the game’s the same. Many of us long to be better known and recognized in whatever our field is: to get the promotion, to see our product sell, to finally have that album cut, book published, our blog get traction or to find thousands of new Twitter followers, Facebook fans or Instagram likes.

Almost a decade ago now, God wrestled my ambition down. Well, that’s putting it nicely.

He snapped my ambition. 

He crushed it. 

He took me to a place where I realized that as much as I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, much of my motivation was selfish and not God-honoring.

Through a long season of prayer, God finally brought me to a point where I could see myself serving as an effective pastor without anyone ever knowing who I was. Without seeing meteoric growth. Without being in any way “successful.”

I hated that definition of success.

And I fought God on that.

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.