Are YOU in Burnout? (Pt.2)



When we think about developing our “leadership” we often assume the posture of improving our skills and abilities to lead others.  It might surprise you to know that one of the most important things about leading and leadership is tied to being able to lead ourselves. BURNOUT almost always traces itself back to issues of self-leadership.


Before David became King, he learned important leadership lessons.  In 1 Samuel 30, David was called on to lead others into battle as a young, emerging leader. God poured forth His favor on David. The battles were going his way. One terrible day though, that pattern changed. After returning home from yet another battle, David and his mighty men discovered that their camp was destroyed, their women and children gone, and all that they owned destroyed by fire.

In their weariness, David’s men began to turn on him. They are tired. They are angry. They are fearful for their families, and they are mad at God. How could He let this happen to those who were off battling for Him? “They wept out loud until they had no strength to weep (vs. 4).” Their anger served to fuel the disgruntled few (some things never change). They began to question David and his leadership. Leadership Backlash is a processing item that God uses to shape leaders and their leadership. Leadership Backlash is when people you lead turn their frustration and anger back on you.

In defining moments like these, leaders form important convictions and values related to their view of God, their view of themselves, and their response to challenges. Does David rally the troops? Do they proceed back out into battle though weary and needing rest? Does he push himself beyond his capacities, out of “duty and responsibility” as their leader? How will David respond? In moments like these, leaders often take their first steps on the path toward BURNOUT.

David realizes a foundational truth that in order to lead others, he must first lead himself. Before he turns to solving the problem, and handling yet another challenge, he must face his own need(s) as a leader, and bring himself before God.  He has nothing to offer his team until he has first gone deeper into God himself. His response: “But David found strength in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6). David first strengthened himself.

David understood the importance of self-leadership. Self-leadership is different from self-care. Self-care is about managing the ongoing needs of life that help to sustain productivity (sleep, exercise, disciplines, etc). Self-leadership is about being pro-active in terms of the development of you. Burnout is often the by-product of placing self-leadership in the “important, but not urgent basket.” Self-leadership isn’t talked about all that much, but its huge.

Self-leadership helps to counteract the acting out each of our pathologies onto to others; issues of driven-ness, ambition, self-acceptance, past wounding, etc. Samuel Rimma, in his book “Leading from the Inside Out” says it this way: “Before we can expect to exercise effective leadership that will withstand the hostile elements of our culture, serious preparatory work must be done on those areas of a leader’s life.”

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, invested time analyzing why some leaders develop to their fullest potential and why others (most) hit a plateau, and even arrest in his/her development.  His conclusion? The difference is (you guessed it) self-leadership. He calls it “emotional self-control.”

What characterizes the ability to maximize leadership potential, according to Goleman, is the ability to tenaciously stay in leadership despite overwhelming opposition or discouragement. Staying in leadership means investing the time and in yourself to (a) maintain sober-mindedness, even during times of crisis, (b) staying focused on the mission instead of being distracted by the competing agendas, and for us who know Christ, (c) most important, the allocation of time to the developing of a deeper journey with God .

Jesus’ set the pattern, and then modeled the life, from the beginning. In Mark 3:13-15 he called his disciples to be with him before he thrust them out into mission. He called those whom he wanted to: (a) first be with him, then (b) to go out and minister for him. That pattern was the key to having a spiritual authority to go against the resistance that will come from spiritual forces who are in direct opposition (vs. 15).

You see this pattern repeated throughout Jesus’ ministry. He practiced the art of self-leadership. He would go to a quiet place and recalibrate. He would remind himself who He was and how much the Father loved him. In John 5 we are told that in those times, when he could have busy carrying for the needs of others, Jesus and the Father shared relationship. The by-product of those intentional moments what the secret to Jesus’ leadership “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. (John 5:20a)

No one can do this work for you. You have to do this work yourself. Self-leadership is tough work. BURNOUT often comes to individuals who care for all the duties, responsibilities, and needs of others, and not to themselves. Like Moses, leaders must first face themselves, before they can attack the demands and problems they will confront. They must hear and respond to the words Jethro spoke to Moses: “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out (Exodus 18:17,18).

There are many ways and approaches to how you to provide self-leadership for yourself. One way that has worked for many leaders is something we call the “Every Strategy.” Self-leadership requires the allocation of time and investment to work on yourself, when you could be doing other things. It is intentional time with Christ allow Him to first develop you. This work often involves time and work: Every DAY, Every WEEK, Every MONTH, Every QUARTER, and Every YEAR.

Here is a link to download the FREE EVERY STRATEGY resource:

NEXT BLOG: BURNOUT, Pt. 3 – Three Categories of Passion

© Terry Walling / 2013


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