Saturday, January 21, 2012

Key Leadership Qualities - Security

Here's a quality that is not talked about often, but it's certainly evident when it's missing. Think about the insecure people for whom you've had the misfortune of working. What insecurity in leadership does for the working climate of an organization can be devastating. The opposite is also true.

When a leader is emotionally healthy, secure in who they are, and confident in their abilities, it helps to provide a stable environment for everyone else. Maxwell shares a great story about Karl, who enjoyed a good laugh at his office after he attached a sign to his door - "I'm the Boss!" The laughter was even louder when he returned from lunch and saw that someone had made an addition to his sign. Next to it was a yellow Post-it note on which someone had scribbled, "Your wife called and said she wants her sign back." Secure leaders can laugh at themselves.

What makes us insecure? There are a lot of things, really. Bad experiences, family history, negative self-image, many things can go together to cause us to be insecure. Fundamentally, I believe that insecurity primarily comes from bad thought patterns. We believe certain things about ourselves, and eventually those beliefs become so powerful that they shape our behaviour - and that can get ugly.

Insecure leaders hesitate to bring around them capable people, because they don't want to look bad. They would rather have the organization flounder, or not reach its potential, then to risk being "shown up" by a subordinate. Insecurity can also lead to self-sabotage. Self-sabotage has been described like this: "shooting yourself in the foot," "putting your foot in your mouth," or "cutting off your nose to spite your face." These phrases all refer to a desire to achieve a goal, but in the process of pursuing that goal you burn bridges to achieving another, more desirable goal. The insecure person can't get past their insecurity to see the bigger picture.

In my leadership I've seen some things that have been very common for myself and others. The first is self-talk. Self-talk is the conversation you have with yourself - the voice in your head. It's almost as though each of us has a message that plays over and over in our heads; sometimes these messages can be powerful. For example, I've spoken with many who grew up in abusive homes where the primary message they heard from adults in their lives was "You're never going to amount to anything." Even though they didn't like the message, over a period of years they gradually came to believe it.

This comes into play every time they face difficulty, opposition or even opportunity. A secure person looks at a new challenge and gets excited, believing that they can learn and grow and achieve. An insecure person sees the same challenge and thinks "Here we go again, this is going to get ugly." Rather than excitement, the emotion felt may be paralyzing fear.

How can this be changed? The Bible has some great truth on this issue. In Romans 12:2 We are told to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds." A modern way of looking at it is the computer programming term GIGO, short for "Garbage in, garbage out." What we put into our minds eventually shapes our thought patterns. If the way that you think about yourself is wrong, change it.

I recommend reading books like John Maxwell's "Be All You Can Be." As a pastor, I also believe that you will never be all that you can be until you have a proper relationship with God. Replacing the negative self-image that others have placed in your minds with the truth that you were created and are loved by a personal God has had a transforming affect on many with whom I've had the privilege of working.

Security is really about what you believe. It was Henry Ford who said, "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." Every leader is responsible for his own thought life. No-one else can change this for you but you. Read good books, listen to good talks, be influenced by positive people and think good thoughts. You will find that the opposite of GIGO is also true. As the writer of Proverbs said, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Do you want to be a good leader? Think good thoughts.

Related Articles:
Key Leadership Qualities - Communication
Key Leadership Qualities - Perspective
Key Leadership Qualities - Discernment
Key Leadership Qualities - Adaptability


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