Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

The Understanding of My Self (Part 1)

Dr. Jim Osterhaus

Dr. Jim Osterhaus

It has been interesting to me, as a clinical psychologist, how all of us set goals for ourselves – physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, occupational – and then go about blocking ourselves from achieving these goals. How can this be?

Our inner lives constitute a complexity that must be better understood and mastered in order that we might lead our churches more effectively. Another way of looking at it: We can only lead our congregations as deeply as we ourselves have gone.

I’d like to explore some of our complexities in this and other blog entries. Then I will unpack this more at the TAG Leaders Forum in November in Phoenix. [

Basic Premise:

There is a crisis in Ministry →

This crisis has much to do with a crisis in ministry leadership →

This crisis in leadership has much to do with leaders having failed to understand themselves and become well-defined as people. →

This failure of adequate self-definition began in our homes, in our original stories, and has major implications personally in one’s life, and corporately in the churches we lead  →

Our lack of adequate self-definition then has made us vulnerable to competing values →

Competing values leave our lives and our ministries misaligned and in danger of being inauthentic.

It is amazing how processes that surround us, inform us, and guide us remain largely unconscious. Because they’re unconscious, they remain beyond our reflection. Because they are beyond our reflection, they remain operative and powerful, the ‘maps,’ as one metaphor states, that guide our lives. In any given situation, we unconsciously take our ‘map’ for consultation as to how to proceed.

Unfortunately, because we often do so little self-reflection, we become a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Before any technique, method or program can be successful, leaders must be willing to face their own selves. Daniel Goldman (Emotional Intelligence) delineated the steps: Self-awareness (accurate self-assessment) leads to the ability to manage oneself, which leads to a social awareness (understanding how relationships work and our part in making them work), which leads to the ability to manage relationships appropriately. A self-aware leader is one who can do the often difficult, but always rewarding task of being well-defined. And arguably, it is the well-defined leader who is able to lead effectively.

The Defined Leader

Well Defined:

•    Someone who has clarity about self and his/her own life goals.
•    Able to manage own anxiety.
•    Able to hold one’s ground.
•    Focuses on strength.
•    Works with motivated people.
•    Seeks enduring change.
•    Considers self when problems arise.
•    Is challenged by difficult situations.
•    Responds effectively to resistance & sabotage.
•    Has a challenging attitude that encourages responsibility.
•    Is more likely to create healthy relationships.
•    Able to disappoint those dependent on them.
•    Acknowledges and navigates competing values.

Poorly Defined:

•    Someone who is unclear about who s/he is and unclear about his/her life goals.
•    Is at the mercy of own anxiety.
•    Sacrifices own position to manage anxiety.
•    Focuses on pathology.
•    Works with symptomatic people
•    Seeks symptom relief.
•    Diagnoses others.
•    Is quick to distance from difficult situations.
•    Responds poorly to resistance & sabotage, allowing it to distract.
•    Focuses empathetically on helpless victims.
•    Is more likely to create dependent relationships.
•    Great difficulty disappointing those dependent on them.
•    Fails to acknowledge competing values defaulting to the expedient. Thus turning these expedient values into operating values at variance with core vales.

In a future blog, we will discuss more about self-awareness, how it can be achieved, and the consequences for neglecting this critical aspect of leadership.


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