There are two spheres of existence: being and doing. "Being" concerns who we are. "Doing" concerns the roles we play and the things we do in them. While the things we do in life can certainly enhance or detract from our sense of self, they should never define it. In other words, if we receive our identity in what we do (roles, titles, positions, jobs, functions) we set ourselves up for great disappointment.
Leaders might say of themselves, "I am a pastor" or "I am project manager." These statements are understandable, yet they also reveal a basic mindset common in the western world: we are what we do.
But who we are must transcend the things we do in life. That's because title, roles and functions change and/or go away. They may also greatly disappoint. So, when the pastor whose very identity has been defined by his role retires, he loses a sense of self. Fear, lack of purpose, and insecurity may result. Or, when the role becomes difficult and he experiences failure in it, inadequacy, withdrawal and self-condemnation follow. Since life is founded upon this role, he must do everything to sustain it— please people, run over people, make results happen, etc.
Pastoring, project managing, even mothering and being a spouse are only and ultimately roles we play that should flow from a deeper reality. Believe it or not, these functions are not essentially who we are and if we define ourselves in such ways we are not doing so based upon God's Word.
Sadly, many leaders have no sense of self outside of their jobs and titles. Their very identity is tied to them. In practice, this places their roles and titles above God's estimation. Thus, the things we do become very hard to steward, keep in proper perspective, and walk away from. They become idols. The difference is crucial. This misalignment produces leaders who now must prove themselves, rather than express themselves. It's the difference between being driven as many people are, and healthily leading as God intends.
Doing should never define being. Rather, it should flow from a properly defined identity. That is, what we do should always result from who we are. Not the other way around. For when we know who we are (according to God), celebrate who we are, and are secure in who we are, there are tremendous benefits and blessings that result in the "doing" part of life.
Ultimately, I am not a pastor, teacher, or father. I am a child of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:16-17; Gal. 3:26; 1 Jn. 3:1-2)! Nothing defines me more basically and more accurately. Nothing is more secure. And, nothing yields wholeness, perseverance, courage, grace, and humility in leading than this fact.
Leader, on your worst day, you are still a child of God!
“The great spiritual gift that comes as one takes the inward journey is to know for certain that who I am does not depend on what I do. Identity does not depend upon titles, or degrees, or function. It depends only on the simple fact that I am a child of God, valued and treasured for what I am.”
(Insights on Leadership, pg. 205, edited by Larry J. Spears, John Wiley & Sons, 1998)
I pray this one fact will be a constant reminder to you in 2016. Nothing will serve you better in leadership than to live in this reality.