The different tasks of leadership pose many challenges for a leader. It requires that the leader have a good sense of knowing the people well enough to relate to them but also for him to have a good sense of direction in terms of where he wants to lead them. Fundamentally, however, one of the most neglected aspects of leadership entails knowing exactly where the leader is in terms of self-awareness. In other words, the leader must have a good read on his own strengths and weaknesses in order to know how to best lead the people he shepherds over. This requires a strong sense of self-awareness of the leader in his giftedness, his personality, and his leadership style. This entry will examine the biblical encouragements for self-awareness and the hindrances that prevent his success in leadership.

            Too many times, I have seen leaders who thought that they were proficient and strong in a particular area of leadership only to find that they themselves may be the only ones who thought this way. This disconnection has not only shown a personal unawareness of the leader but also results in the ineffectiveness of his ministry. For any person who desires to serve in the ministry and to be able to build up the people, he must be aware of himself and how God has “wired” him for the ministry. The consequences of not knowing this important self-knowledge could be detrimental. The Pastoral Epistles gives us a number of exhortations and principles related to knowing one’s calling, giftedness, and effectiveness.

           In 1 Timothy 4:14-15, we read, “do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.” In this short section, the Apostle Paul is exhorting young Timothy to be aware of his spiritual gifting and then to be diligent in exercising it for the body of Christ. This is the process of discovering one’s strengths and spiritual gifting. Verse 15 exhorts Timothy to “take pains” and to be “absorbed in them” which suggests diligence is necessary in helping to discover and develop oneself for the ministry. The result that Paul points out from this process comes at the end of vs. 15 that says, “so that your progress will be evident to all.” People will notice not only the effort but also the effect of working diligently at being aware and understanding himself for the cause of ministry. There are many ways to discover one’s strengths and weaknesses through selected resources: the spiritual gift inventory, the Myers-Briggs test, the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment test, and the S.H.A.P.E. test just to name a few.

          For the leader who is in the process of discovering himself, there are further affirmations for him to understand that he is moving in the right direction of self-discovery. Paul mentions in the Pastoral Epistles that he serves the Lord with a clear conscience (1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3) that is definitely important for a leader. It again points to a level of self-awareness that is necessary to indicate that the person is in touch with himself and reality. Some of the conflicting feelings that may indicate otherwise may be doubt, guilt, fear, and lack of confidence which all cloud a clear conscience. Paul later mentions in 2 Timothy 1:9 that another affirmation would be that the leader has a strong sense of calling from God, “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” This will bear strongly on the conscience that again is directly related to one’s self-awareness.

         What hindrances contribute to a leader being unaware of himself and his abilities? There are many possible factors that could be mentioned. One immediate factor would be honest feedback. Sometimes, when believers speak to one another, they attempt to be overly loving that they forget to speak the truth. But the Scripture is very clear that we must do both! Ephesians 4:15 tells us, “but speaking the truth in love” which means that both elements must be included not just one at the exclusion of the other. One of the most difficult things that I’ve had to do as a leader is to tell a person honestly and directly that he was out of touch with himself and with his giftedness. This was certainly not an easy conversation to have but simultaneously a very necessary one. It turns out that I was the first person to ever say this truth to him even though his deficiency was widely held by many for a long time. The problem was that no one had the courage to address him because they thought it would hurt his feelings. In all honesty, the most loving thing to do in this situation is to speak the truth in love so that the unaware person becomes aware of himself and not be self-deceived. This saves a lot of heartache for everyone involved.

        This leads to yet another reason why some leaders are not mindful of themselves because they lack genuine friends. True and genuine friends will be able to give the necessary feedback that a leader needs to hear whether it be positive or negative. Proverbs 27:6 tells us “faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Hopefully the honesty of a close friend will be both critical and constructive at the same time in order to guides the leader friend to have a true assessment of himself. Carson Pue in his excellent book, Mentoring Leaders calls this kind of person a “soul friend.” He continues by stating, “a soul friend is a person who provides others with coaching, support, and guidance as they progress along the path toward fulfilling their spiritual and human potential.”[1] All leaders need good soul friends to aid them in their own self-awareness. Hopefully, once the leaders hear this constructive criticism, they will be humble enough to receive it and then make the necessary steps to address it.

        I would really like to recommend Carson Pue’s book, Mentoring Leaders. It includes many valuable insights and principles that could assist to discover or hone any leader in his personal development. He begins his book with something he calls the “Mentoring Matrix” and the first stage in this matrix has to do with self-awareness. He gives a striking quote in this section as he writes, “My observation is that the best of the best leaders have a very clear grasp of how they are feeling at any given moment.”[2] What do you think about this? Is self-awareness really that important? And what should you do if your leader lacks self-awareness? I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.

[1] Carson Pue, Mentoring Leaders. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 34.

[2] Pue, 31.