Leaders It’s Time to be Selfish

Leaders it’s time to be selfish.
By Rev. Dr. Kevin Wilson
I’m serious.

Be selfish.

– Order a second shot of espresso.
– Download that audiobook you’ve put off buying.
– Leave a little early to hike the trail you’ve had your eye on for years.

Understand, I write for faith-based leaders. We are committed to placing God above all else. We are called to give our lives for others. We are conditioned to make sacrifices for the cause.

This means we are at risk for emotional burnout, physical exhaustion and spiritual drought. I look into the eyes of a lot of leaders. Too often I’m seeing a vacant stare, a stare that says a leader has nothing left to give.

If you are repulsed by thought of being selfish, then frame it as wellness. Here are five reasons to take your personal well-being seriously.

God gives permission to and even blesses self-care.
There is a litany of Bible passages that illuminate this truth. We care for ourselves because we were created in God’s image (Genesis chapter 1). It is assumed in the “Great Command” that we will love ourselves (Matthew chapter 22). Jesus went to lonely places to pray in part so He could recharge His batteries (Luke chapter 5). So we also should recharge our batteries.

Caring for yourself helps make you an effective leader.
Leaders experiencing burnout gain empathy but lose trust. Once trust is lost its almost impossible to regain. One key to effective leadership is consistently being ready and available to lead. Sustaining this ready state for leadership requires self-care.

Caring for yourself prepares you to help others with self-care.
Being selfish can produce selfless benefits. In learning how to care for yourself you learn how to help others learn the same. By modeling self-care you can mentor staff and members in self-care.

Only you can ensure you practice self-care.
It is shameful, but there are faith-based organizations that drain their leaders dry then leave them behind. Even in organizations where the Board of Directors set healthy boundaries for leaders, there is no guarantee these efforts will prove effective. The bottom line is that only one person can ensure you practice self-care. That person is you.

Caring for yourself can demonstrate you are ready for more responsibility.
I read about the apostle Peter with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew chapter 17) and understand that Jesus is preparing to carry on His mission after Jesus’ ascension. I look at Paul serving in Antioch under the direction of Barnabas (Acts chapter 11) and see Paul being preparing to lead the first mission trip. Mastering self-care as a leader today may well prepare you for future work.

I admit that my opening illustrations of selfishness seem rather trite in the context of self-care. Then again, if you are accustomed to giving your last drop of blood for the cause, getting that second shot of espresso could be a big step. Steps towards self-care for leaders are good steps.

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