32 min
By: ENC Leaders

Episode 7: Leading in Anxious Times, The Leader’s Responsibility

Knowing and fulfilling our responsibilities starts with being a differentiated leader. Let’s talk about what differentiation is and how it’s crucial to our well-being, growth, and how we relate with others.

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Show notes:

  • So what are my responsibilities? The only way to answer this question is to know what God is telling you to do. If we don’t listen to God, we’re not able to do our responsibility.
  • We need to be able to make free decisions that are separated from what other people think or how they react; to choose based from what we know God is telling us. This is the “differentiated leader.”

2:35 – Differentiation

  • “Differentiation deals with the effort to define oneself, to control oneself, to become a more responsible person, and to permit others to be themselves as well.” – Jim Herrington, The Leader’s Journey
  • “Defining oneself” doesn’t mean making your own rules. It’s not living in rebellion.
  • Rather, it means: “I am responsible for what is going on with me, and I want to allow you to be responsible for what’s going on with you”
  • Differentiation of self, according to The Leader’s Journey, might also include the following:
  1. The ability to steer one’s own course in the turbulent waters of a living system
  2. The ability to allow the life and teaching of Jesus to serve as one’s compass rather than reading everyone else’s emotional chart
  3. Being a less-anxious presence amid others’ anxieties
  4. The ability to take responsibility for one’s own emotions and feelings, rather than expecting others to deal with them
  5. The ability to know the difference between thinking and feeling
  • “A leader who has the capacity to know and do the right thing understands himself or herself apart from others and so can achieve distance from a situation and observe what is really going on without letting personal reactivity or anxiety get in the way.” – Herrington

6:55 – Poor differentiation

  • When we are poorly differentiated, two things can happen:

1. We control others by...

  • manipulating their behavior
  • assuming their intentions
  • predetermining what they should do
  • Even when we follow Jesus, we cannot do this to people.
  • But what about this thinking? “If I don’t control them they’ll get worse!”
  • What’s wrong with that mindset? We are robbing people of the opportunity to be themselves.
  • We have to realize that we cannot change people. People change all the time, but we cannot do it. What we can do is help by contributing to the environment where change becomes more likely.
  • We need to respect other people’s volition and choices. If we remove this from them, this will not be helpful in the long-term.
  • “The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. If you want your child, spouse, client, or boss to shape up, stay connected while changing yourself rather than trying to fix them.” – Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve
  • We have to respect the design, work, and process of God in other people’s lives.

2. We let others control us.

  • This is when I don’t do what God has called me to do, but I do what others want me to do.
  • What are other things that can drive us instead of God’s purpose?

a. Need: There’s a need somewhere and I should fix it.

  • I have to be honest about the negative fruit that this is bringing my life: complaining, a critical spirit, burnout, neglecting more fundamental responsibilities (my family, my health, and my own walk with God).

b. Guilt: I am manipulated into doing something.

c. Fear: A fear of being left behind, a fear of what other people are doing, a fear of missing out.

d. Pressure: A pressure to be like everyone else, because they’re all doing it one way.

  • All this is not leadership. It’s just reacting.
  • It doesn’t feel right, right? Because it was coerced and that’s never God’s way.
  • ASK: “God, I want to trust you. What are you telling me to do?”

20:30 – The opposite of poorly differentiated leaders

  • People who are not coerced, people who know what God has called them to do and how God has called them to work together, and people who are free to make those decisions.
  • People who accept that sometimes, we’ll be different, but we will stay connected.
  • People who hear the Father’s voice and will do what they are called to do in the present time.
  • The best picture of a differentiated leader is Jesus.

21:39 – The leader’s responsibilities

1. I’m responsible for myself and what God has put in my sphere of influence.

  • My emotions and feelings and how I process them
  • My calling – This includes long-term vocation and short-term responsibilities.
  • The teams or groups God has called me to lead – “I can’t control the people in that team, but I must do my part in ensuring that the purpose of the team is fulfilled.”
  • In short: I am responsible for what I can do.

2. I’m not responsible for what you can do.

  • Being responsible for what others can do is wrong, because it stresses us out.
  • Many of us are overworked or over-functioning
  • It’s also wrong, because it robs the other person of the chance to learn, change, and grow.
  • Stop taking responsibility for other people’s stuff.

27:40 – The complete picture

  • If we stopped with these responsibilities, we will develop a very simplistic mindset. It’s not thinking biblically.
  • The complete picture is: “I’m responsible for myself and what I can do. I’m not responsible for what you can do. AND you and I will stay connected in relationship.”
  • “Differentiation is the ability to remain connected in relationship to significant people in our lives, yet not have our reactions and behavior determined by them.” – Herrington

30:45 – Process your insights from this podcast

  • Are you being responsible for yourself, for your feelings and emotions, for your long-term vocation and your short-term responsibilities? It may be good to specify what those things are.
  • Are you trying to control others or letting others control you? What’s driving this? How does believing the Gospel change that?
  • Why is it hard to stay connected without controlling or being controlled? How does trusting Jesus help with that?

The ENC Leadership Podcast is hosted by Joseph Bonifacio.

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