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Episode 23 - 10 Jul 2018

Can You Lead Yourself?

Is self-leadership even possible? Adam & John jump into the podcast studio to discuss this popular leadership topic and try to clear up some common misconceptions.

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Episode Summary

Introduction (00:59)

People love talking about themselves. Additionally the concept of leadership, while often a buzz word, is also incredibly popular. People tend to gravitate towards self-leadership related teaching and tend to avoid topics related to self discipline. Adam points out that these two concepts are actually one and the same. When people talk about self-leadership, what they often mean is self-discipline. Regardless, these topics are very important as people in leadership. In order to best understand leading one’s self, Adam has a four part framework to look through.

The 4 H’s

  • Head - It is your responsibility to be continuously learning.
  • Heart - It is your responsibility to emotionally healthy.
  • Hands - It is your responsibility to get better at what you do.
  • Hope - It is your responsibility to know where you are going.

Head (2:15)

“Be a subject matter expert on everything you are responsible for.” - John McGee

This is the first aspect of self-disciple or self-leadership. If you are going to continue to grow and learn as a leader, you will need information. This is no one’s job but your own. Leaders must staying diligent to pursue and consume information, whether that be in the form of books, articles, podcasts, Youtube videos, etc. For Adam specifically, this means he takes time to consistently listen to podcasts and read books

from a wide range of topics. It can also be helpful to keep track of what you read. This provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. When trying to decide what to read, remember that everyone is an evangelist for something.

So listen for what other people are saying is good. Adam shares that reading articles doesn’t come easy to him, but he has grown fond of the Weekend Reader.

John mentions that he loves the Economist because it helps him step out of his world and local context and see what is going on in the world. He recommends finding and following other people who consume incredibly large amounts of content and then curate that content for others. Doing this saves you lots of time filtering through the endless stream of content and information at your fingertips. John also expresses that there is a joy to finding something that he knows nothing about. He mentions finding a book about physics enjoying the process of unraveling and working through something that he may not at first understand. John also reiterates the need to be a subject matter expert on everything you are responsible for. This often means finding people who know more than you and then learning from them. Effective leaders will always be curious.

Heart (9:06)

Everyone on earth feels emotion. This doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. It does matter where you are from or what your background is. When interacting with other people, emotions will always be a part of the process. That is why it is so important for leaders to be emotionally healthy. Adam thinks about his overall emotional well-being like it is a fuel-gauge on a car. Just like he has to take responsibility to full his car up when it gets low on gas, he needs to do the same thing emotionally. This means being able to read his own heart and tell where he is at emotionally. That way he can tell when he needs to step back and recharge emotionally. Often we can feel that our spouses or others around us should take responsibility for our emotional health. However, this is simply not the case. We are responsibly for our own emotional health.

When Adam accesses the status of his heart and emotional health he looks at three things:

  1. Schedule - How fast-paced is your schedule? Are there times during the week when you have time to slow down and rest?
  2. People - There are often people in our lives that can be emotionally draining. There are also people that encourage us and fill us up. Having a healthy balance of both kinds is crucial to maintaining emotional health.
  3. Jesus - If you are not spending time with Jesus, regularly engaging and abiding with him, then your emotional gauges will quickly deplete.

It is also important to realize the physical realities of leading yourself well. While somewhat obvious, eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep are also crucial to head and heart health. John talks about the benefit of doing an extended period without any sugar. Sometimes just putting running shoes on can begin to move the emotional gauge upward. He also recommends anything that allows you experience better sleep.

Hands (20:18)

It is your responsibility to get better at what you do. This means working on and refining the skills necessary to do your job well. You cannot wait for your boss to come and lead you to get better. We need to resist the temptation to only ever do what is scripted and coached. Taking initiative is crucial. Adam also talks about the importance of feedback. A great step is to simply ask co-workers and bosses, “What is one thing I could get better at to do my job well?” In ministry, because work rarely involves “tools” or “programs,” the lines marking improvement can sometimes be a little vague or mushy. But even suggestions as simple as “be a better listener” are important as you attempt to become better at what you do. John reiterates the need for feedback. Whatever you may be doing, you should seek out feedback from others. Remember that there is never a finish line.

Hope (25:23)

“We cannot delegate or abdicate doing the hard work of thinking about our future. We can only steward our own lives.” - Adam Tarnow

You are responsible for knowing where you are headed. Adam admits that when he was younger, he wanted older leaders in his life to simply tell him where he should be going and what he should do. The older he has gotten, the more he realizes this is our own responsibility. Ask God to clarify how He has wired you, where He has you, and what He wants you to do. This does not mean that we fail to seek out counsel and ask other people to speak into our lives. We need people to affirm our thoughts about the future.

John mentions the value in letting people know what you ultimately want to do, but then communicating a willingness to do anything in the meantime. We must be students of ourselves and be assertive for what we are actually feeling and thinking. Get your desires out in the open and then test them and ask for others to speak into them.

Final Thoughts (31:30)

Reject passivity. Take responsibility. John talks about how anything good we want to do is going to have resistance. There is almost always a person between us and what we want. There is often a person that is keeping us from getting out of bed to run in the morning. That person is often our self. We need to fight for what we know we need to do. It might just look like waking up and punching resistance in the face.
Grab a sheet of printer paper, divide it into four quadrants (Head, Heart, Hands, Hope) and begin to evaluate each of the ways you are leading or not leading yourself well. Keep it simple. Find someone who loves you and then talk through it.

Referenced Resources

Weekend Reader by Maxwell Anderson
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlos Rovelli

Questions or Comments? Email

Hosted By
John mcgee 20200223 wcc headhshots 001447
John McGee

Sr. Director of Watermark Resources

A tarnow
Adam Tarnow

Cohost of Church Leadership Podcast