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Resonating with Leading Up: The importance of Identity

Leading UpI recently read Joel Mayward’s book Leading Up, an excellent book for Christian leaders on leadership and influencing people around you. The book really resonated with me and by sharing some of my thoughts and own experiences, I’d like to show you why.

Who are you?

“Before leading up you have to know who you are.”

Joel writes this in the first chapter after the story on youth pastor Logan his book begins with. It seems like a cliché this statement, but there’s a deep truth in it. Joel shares his own story of how his leadership started from a place of insecure pride and how that affected his leadership.

My leadership started the same way, though I’d say it was more insecurity than pride. You see, I wasn’t at all convinced I was the right man for the job of youth pastor (or youth coordinator as I was officially called). First of all I wasn’t a man, but a woman and while our church was open to women in leadership and preaching roles, I was one of the firsts to actually make that theory a reality.

Secondly, I did not have a theological background and that’s the one that really made me insecure. I always felt I wasn’t good enough, didn’t know enough compared to others, and it affected my leadership.

At times I was afraid to give my opinion, so sure it would be shot down, than no one would take me seriously. It also made me defensive whenever I encountered criticism, even constructive and rightful feedback.

Other times I would compensate for my own insecurity by being too bold, too dominant in discussions. I’m sure others have felt intimidated by me at times, which is rather ironic because it came from feeling intimidated myself.

Humble confidence

The healthy attitude of a Christian leader is humble confidence, Joel describes and I couldn’t agree more. The expression ‘your identity in Christ’ is one that is in my opinion too easily used without ever making it practical, especially when it comes to leadership. But how Joel describes humble confidence rings true: “allowing Christ to be King, to shape our desires and ambitions instead of trying to build them ourselves.”

The list he gives with characteristics of a humbly confident leader may look like an easy one, but it will take a lifetime of leadership to realize every aspect. And so it should be, ‘level 5 leaders’ aren’t just born, they grow out of experiences combined with the right attitude.

It’s that attitude that makes all the difference. Becoming aware of your insecurity, your pride, that’s a huge first step in changing your leadership into leading up. Living from your identity in Christ is a lifetime journey, but it’s one that is the indispensable foundation under influential leadership. Without a healthy identity, there is no healthy leadership and there is no chance of leading up.