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Monday, April 2, 2012

The “It” Factor: Building Leadership Maturity

It is one thing to identify immaturity as the leading cause of leadership failure.  It is quite another to grow maturity.  The purpose of this blog is to tackle that topic, and set forth a course for progress.  Here are six elements of building maturity. You can remember them with the word BETTER: 

  • Build authentic relationships.
  • Engage in emotional healing for wounds of the past. 
  • Tear down strongholds that have taken you captive. 
  • Take thoughts captive. 
  • Establish new routines. 
  • Recharge your relational connection with God 
    Build authentic relationships.  

      At the 2012 Deeper Walk Conference, John Lynch made the point that secrecy is sin’s greatest ally.  He told the story of a night when a fight at home, a tempting invitation, and the weakness of the flesh conspired to lure him into a potentially tragic decision.  As he was in the car driving, he called a friend and told him of the battle that was raging inside of him.  Simply exposing the temptation robbed it of its power, and he was able to get back to being himself.  The story makes you think.  Do you have friends like that?  Do you have friends you can call at a moment’s notice to share when darkness is threatening to do you in? 

Engage in emotional healing for wounds of the past. 

Trauma is the primary cause of emotional immaturity.  That being the case, it stands to reason that without emotional healing for that trauma, we are going to stay stuck.  In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero relates his story of how unresolved trauma nearly cost him his marriage and his ministry.  One of the keys to healing for this successful pastor was learning to integrate his emotional life with his devotional life.  In a sense, he began to practice listening prayer in relationship to his emotional life and not just his ministry life.  

Listening prayer is a huge part of emotional healing.  At Deeper Walk we promote the Immanuel Prayer method developed by Karl Lehman (  I also have a booklet on the topic called REAL Prayer: A guide to emotional healing.   REAL is an acrostic to help remember four steps in the path of listening prayer related to pain in the past: Remember. (Lord, help me remember whatever You want to heal today.Explore. (Lord, bring to mind what I need to remember about that experience and show me the lies that Satan planted in my heart because of that wound.Ask. (I invite Jesus to make His presence known in that memory and do whatever He needs to do to bring healing to it.)  Listen.  (Look and listen to see what the Lord wants to show you that can bring healing to that memory.)  While these methods can be extremely effective, the important point here is that you engage in a process.  You can’t just ignore the past and hope it goes away. 

Tear down strongholds that have taken you captive. 

Spiritual bondage is a major obstacle to leadership success.  Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  Yet it is surprising how many Christian leaders are blind to the bondage in their lives, or feel helpless to change.  Deeper Walk International was founded as a ministry that focused primarily on helping people in this area.  Mark Bubeck founded this ministry based on the teachings in his books The Adversary and Overcoming the Adversary.   Today, we offer a variety of resources on the topic of spiritual warfare.  My book What Every Believer Should Know About Spiritual Warfare is a good place to start.  We also recommend using Neil T. Anderson’s Steps to Freedom in Christ as a guide for tearing down strongholds. 

Take thoughts captive.

How important is the mind to leadership success?  If your life is being driven by lies, what kind of impact do you think that will have on the way you live?  I find it helpful now and then to ask God to show me in words or pictures what lies Satan is trying to get me to believe.  I did this recently, and I saw myself standing at the edge of a cliff holding onto a rope with a person dangling over the edge on the other end of the line.  I lacked the strength to pull the person to safety, so I was stuck, just holding the rope, waiting, and getting really tired.   The picture symbolized a counseling relationship I was in where I felt very much over my head.  When I asked the Lord to show me His truth, I sensed that His hand was underneath this person.  Their success/failure was not totally up to me.  I also sensed that He was standing beside me wanting to help, but that I was blind to His presence.  Taking thoughts captive is about exposing Satan’s lies and replacing them with God’s truth.  The wrong thoughts can paralyze us with fear or puff us up with pride or blind us in anger or depression so that we do not operate on a foundation of truth.  The results can be catastrophic. 

Establish new routines.

I have found that if I want to establish a new habit I need a coach.  I don’t think I have ever successfully implemented any lasting life change without two things: a coach and a team (or at least a partner.)  In high school I decided to take up tennis.  First, I went to a two week tennis camp.   It turned out that a friend of mine also went to that camp.  We started playing together every day.  We got good enough that I decided to try out for the school team.  I started playing with other players who were better than me, so did my friend.  We took some more lessons.  After just a two summers of this, we both made the school tennis team.  John Maxwell has said, “Decision making is over-rated.  It is decision management that counts.”  He is right.  I made progress in my tennis game because I got coaching, I had a partner, and I joined a team.  This gave me the structure and guidance I needed to make the changes that needed to occur.  In a similar way, Cloud and Townsend have written that discipline is not something you simply choose to have.  It has to be developed.  You need people who will help you create the structures that will teach you discipline until a habit is established and you have learned discipline. 

Recharge your relational connection with God.

A lack of authentic relationships, unresolved emotional baggage, spiritual bondage, lies in our thinking, and undisciplined living all tend to undermine our walk with God.  Thanks to the grace of God, we are still loved and accepted, no matter how much we seem to be sinking into the abyss of mediocrity.  However, the purpose of grace is not to put a stamp of approval on our foolish decisions and our ignorance.  It is to keep the lifeline of relationship available to us in every situation.  Legalism teaches us that we have to earn God’s acceptance by our performance.  License teaches us that our performance has no consequences.  The key to personal success in life is our ability to stay relationally connected with God.  Jesus said it simply, “I am the vine. You are the branches.  Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  To a great extent, maturity is measured by our ability to remain relational with Christ regardless of our circumstances. 

There is a reason that God designed time to be experienced in cycles.  Every new cycle is a reminder to seek Him.  There is a sunrise and a sunset every day.  They remind us that He is there.  There is a Sabbath every week to be set aside for seeking God.  There is a new moon every month to remind us to set aside time for Him.  There are seasons every year so that we can set our calendar around the worship of our Creator.  If we will build our lives around the patterns God has built into creation, we will build our lives around Him.  Each new cycle is an opportunity for a fresh start with God.  What do you say?  Are you ready to dive in and start the process of growing your maturity?

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