Enjoying the freedom of being good enough

Self-management and leadership

In the 30-plus years I’ve been involved in ministry, I’ve heard a lot about what makes a good leader. Vision, passion, enthusiasm, speaking and organizational skills are standard fare in the discussion.

More and more, however, attention is being focused on emotional intelligence. Abundant research indicates that EI determines leadership effectiveness and success more than intellectual and technical skills.

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to regulate emotionality in stressful situations and maintain interpersonal relationships. Daniel Goleman identifies four competencies of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill.

It seems self-management is particularly important for ministry leaders.

Self-management encompasses more skills than I can cover in this blog. It’s the ability to regulate and control one’s emotions effectively.

Goleman states, “Self-regulation, which is like an ongoing inner conversation, frees us from being prisoners of our feelings. People engaged in such a conversation feel bad moods and emotional impulses just as everyone else does, but they find ways to control them and even to channel them in useful ways.”

It’s importance is emphasized in the adage, “The primary task of a leader is to manage him/herself, over managing others.”

Self-management is particularly crucial in times of upset, whether in times of heightened stress and anxiety, sadness or anger. Effective leaders have the capacity to calm themselves in such occasions, a process known as self-soothing.

Self-soothing allows the leader to maintain a calm, non-anxious, non-reactive and well-defined position in the heat of the moment. This empowers them to respond rather than react, to address the situation with their best and clearest thinking.

Effectively calming oneself in challenging circumstances is a developmental task introduced early in life. It’s why we introduce pacifiers to babies. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that adults, including ministry leaders, have mastered it.

The importance of self-management becomes obvious when:

  • The church board resolutely opposes and resists the pastor’s proposed ministry plans.
  • Group members become critical of the leader. The more viscous and unfair the criticism, the more need for self-management.
  • A crisis explodes on the scene–a fire destroys the facility, a death of a prominent member, a leader has a moral fall.

As the leader focuses on managing her/himself and practices self-soothing, it lowers the collective level of anxiety. Trust, security and respect prevail. As the leader practices self-management, others will have the space to follow suit.

Jason Mraz sings about self-management in his song, Details in the Fabric:

Calm down
Deep breaths
And get yourself dressed instead
Of running around
And pulling on your threads
And breaking yourself up

If it’s a broken part, replace it
If it’s a broken arm, then brace it
If it’s a broken heart, then face it

And hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way
Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way

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2 thoughts on “Self-management and leadership

  1. Kristopher Dahir on said:

    It is most freeing to realize that there is only one person on this earth that I am in charge of- that is myself. The Lord has asked us to lead by example and to do that means, though I care for, encourage, and pray for those around me, my greatest goal is to live for the Lord on a moment-by-moment basis. This is how I see self-regulation and yes, it is exhausting at times; but worth every moment.

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