Leaders often live a life of unknown loneliness. While to the outsider, they appear to be surrounded by people, connections and scores of friends, it is often a false positive to the reality of how things are on the inside of the person. Because of this, so many crumble under the pressure. There are scores of great articles/helps available dealing with leadership burnout, but I would like to address something that often goes unmentioned yet carries extreme weight; leaders need a friend.
It can seem to be a trivial need, as I’m sure that most would say they have friends, great friends even, yet leaders/pastors are at a great disadvantage in connecting with people on a core level for a few reasons: 1. Leaders are givers, people of service and are constantly looking for ways to pour into others rather than drawing from the ways that the relationship can benefit them. 2. Because of their people nature and the desire to love and serve, they are often surrounded and connected to people that constantly draw out of their giving. 3. Because of the position of influence and the accomplishments that the leader has experienced, many connect because of what they are and have done, not who they are. Let me dig a little deeper.
Our human nature relishes praise and adoration. We all love to have pats on the back, encouragement and recognition for what we’ve done. For leaders, this often becomes the common characteristic for the people that are closest to them. You connect to the folks that have become your back patters, sing your praises and tell you how great you’re doing. This is dangerous and gives a false perception of support. More often than not, these people draw closer to you for a reason other than desiring to love you and push your vision. They’re there because you’ve become their wellspring. Rather than learning to draw from the love and guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives, as you’ve attempted to lead them to do, you’ve become what they draw from and they’re running you dry with a smile on their face and a pat on your back. Their intentions may be sincere, but the truth is, they have nothing to add back to the relationship. The other common connection possesses a motive that is a little less sincere and a little better disguised. These are the people that are connected to you because of how it elevates their status. Simply being seen in circles with you and having you on text message and speed dial, gives them access and credibility. They feed off of your influence with others to gain greater influence and opportunity for themselves, but after padding your ego and gaining whatever they can gain, will be the quickest to leave you.
Both types of relationships above are connected to you because of what you are, not who you are. My challenge to you is to go beyond your need to fuel your ego, feel great about what you’re doing and build a true bond with someone who is unimpressed. It is vital to your health, your growth and your leadership ability that you connect with someone that cares about you and only you. You need someone who respects who you are and what you’ve done, but that’s unimpressed by your accomplishments, your position, your authority, etc.; they have a true desire to love the personal you, not the positional you. These friendships, will remain in spite of the failures that you expose (which would drive the others away) and actually give you the ability to be completely transparent and vulnerable. These friendships aren’t afraid to challenge your weak spots out of fear of your authority, but cause you to confront the things in you that need to shift and change. They are able to see you cry and it doesn’t change their perception of you; they are able to see you laugh, have fun (which others can’t picture) and it doesn’t change their perception of you; they are able to watch you fail and soar to new heights and continue to be the same person, standing by you regardless. For many, it’s a person that you don’t have, but it’s somebody that you need.
I challenge you to pray for and seek out that relationship. If you are a pastor or business leader, it is likely not someone in your congregation or your company; it will rarely be someone you lead. You will have to go beyond your normal circles to find them, but they are worth having, so they’re worth pursuing. You need them. Find that person that’s unimpressed.