As we launch into another new year, I have noticed there seems to be at least two types of leaders. One leader looks at the opportunity a new year brings to hit the reset button…to try something new…to experience the energy that comes from stepping out by faith into the unknown realm of potentiality.

Another leader takes a deep breath and with a massive sigh breathes out a quiet prayer hoping that the next year will be better than the previous year, or perhaps maybe this year I should change jobs and get off of the leadership treadmill.

Leadership is hard work. It requires a high level of self awareness and the courage to allow God to do some work in the soul to bring about an increasing level of integrity and honesty.

Yet most leaders are so busy they seldom take the necessary time to pause, slow down and listen to their soul and to what God is saying in the quiet spaces. It is easy to justify why there is no time to deal with these things, after all, we are important, we have things to get done, people to lead, objectives to accomplish for the common good and corporate vision right?

One key trait that I have observed in the lives of great leaders that last is that they take the time to engage in healthy self-examination. I’m not talking about becoming a comatose navel-gazer, but rather becoming a person that is self-aware and deals with the shadow side of their personality in order to grow in a holistic fashion (body-soul-spirit). This also grows the organizations that they lead.

Take a moment and read through Gordon MacDonald’s piece on what he calls “The Seven Deadly Siphons.” While he wrote this for pastors specifically, I think you will easily be able to make the connections to whatever area of leadership you are in.  Evaluate where you need to invest some energy this year so that you lead well with integrity and continue to finish strong!


The Seven Deadly Siphons

Loss of Spiritual passion seems to be the inevitable result of:

1. Words without action. We are tempted to think that saying something actualizes it. We have a momentary feeling of spirituality when we talk about wanting to pray more or “have more time in the Word.”

2. Busyness without purpose. Ministry produces activities, programs, conversations. If our choices of time-use are not disciplined by call and purpose, our energies become like a lazy, shallow river.

3. Calendars without a Sabbath. A datebook filled with appointments but absent of significant hours (days) of quiet and reflection-written in first-is an abomination (an old and harsh word) to the God of the Bible, who said, “Six days you shall labor…the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

4. Relationships without mutual nourishment. Pastors tend to be acquainted with too many people but know too few people. The spiritual masters have told us for centuries that without soul-friends, we won’t gain spiritual momentum.

5. Pastoral personality without self-examination. Too much ministry is built on unresolved anger, unhealthy needs for approval, and the instinct to control. Failing to explore our soul for un-wholeness ultimately takes it toll.

6. Natural giftedness without spiritual power. A pastor can go a considerable distance in ministry with catchy words, people skills, political savvy, and a facility for organizational dynamics. But kingdom work demands qualities that only a filled-up soul can offer.

7. An enormous theology without an adequate spirituality. A pastor cannot represent a view of reality that includes Creation, evil, reconciliation and conversion, sacrificial service, and eternity-a mind-boggling expanse of conviction-and have a spiritual-exercise regimen that is pea-sized in contrast. A great theology demands a great spirituality.


These are some powerful areas to consider, ruminate upon and take action. The power of your public ministry will only be as great as your private world. If you are not investing in the private world of your soul you are choosing to cap your level of leadership and growth. Each of the areas that MacDonald mentions are worthy of spending some time unpacking, and I would encourage you to do exactly that.

Make it a great year!


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