12 Ways Selfish Ambition Damages a Leader’s Soul (And How to Tell If It’s An Issue For You)

If you’re like me (and like most people), you find selfishness in other people to be a real turn off.

But if we’re honest, very few of us are naturally self-less. Every day, I fight selfishness.

If you’re driven and even a little bit ambitious like I am, you have to be doubly careful.


Because when selfishness and ambition move into the same room together the combination is deadly.

Left undealt with, selfish ambition will harm:

Your family

Your faith

Your team

Your character

And almost everything else in your life.

So you have to deal with it. Ruthlessly.

The reality is most of us aren’t exactly sure how selfish we are.

How can you know? Believe it or not, it’s not that difficult to find out.


It Starts Innocently Enough

Most of us secretly want to be better known, valued and appreciated than we are.  That’s not entirely bad, and it’s part of a natural human longing that comes from our sin and desire for a restored relationship with God, others and even ourselves.

For some of us, the desire to be known or appreciated extends only to a wider relational circle.

For others, it’s more public.  We long to be better known in our ministry, in our company, to see our product selling, our album get recorded, our blog get traction or to find ourselves thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook friends.

If we were to pry behind the secret motivation…we think that would make us feel ‘successful’…as though we matter.

I know I’ve struggled with this over the years.

When I was starting out in ministry, I wanted to be that guy who spoke at conferences and was well respected as a leader in ministry. I never talked about that kind of thing publicly or privately, but if you were to gain access to my sinful mind, the thought spun around  in my head from time to time.


God 1, Me 0 (How God Snapped My Will)

Then in a season of my life over a decade ago, God wrestled that down.  Well, that’s putting it nicely.  He snapped my ambition.

He took me to a place where I realized that as much as I didn’t want to admit it even to myself, much of my motivation was selfish and not God-honouring.  I finally surrendered it to him after a painful wrestling match.

In my struggles with God, God brought me to a point where I could see myself serving as an effective pastor in the middle of nowhere without ever anyone knowing who I was. I didn’t really want that definition of success. But I embraced it anyway.

As best I could, I surrendered my ambition to God. I gave in. (Kind of foolish that we resist giving into God, isn’t it? But we do.)

I’m so grateful I had that painful encounter with God.

Left unchecked, selfish ambition turns servants of God into servants of themselves.


12 Ways Selfish Ambition Damages a Leader’s Soul (And What Happens When You Give It Up)

I’ve come to enjoy the slow death of selfish ambition in my life.  It’s not complete, but it’s in progress. Here’s what I’m learning and (now) loving about the difference.

These 12 things are true when you’re motivated by selfish ambition:


5 Simple Changes That Can Make You Better Thinker In the Next 7 Days

“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” – Sir Joshua Reynold

We don’t think enough.

And yet mostly, as a lead pastor, the most important part of my job involves thinking. I’m always trying to work through:

My relationship with God

The next series/next message

Team health and dynamics

Reaching our community

Encouraging and helping people grow in their relationship with God

Our future

I don’t know about you, but my life get so crowded with people asking me to do things that, left unchecked, I would have zero time to think in a week.

Add to that crises, solving urgent things, and by the tedium of email and my own undisciplined responses to whatever is going on around you…and a week goes by in a heartbeat.

It’s not a very inspired way of living.

idea concept

So Exactly How Much Time Have You Budgeted To….?

If you were to look at your next seven days, how much time have you budgeted

to think

to be creative

to solve problems you haven’t been able to solve

to work on it, not just in it

to dream

to innovate

to truly advance your mission

And “well we just had our annual retreat” probably isn’t going to hack it as an ongoing answer.

If you fail to budget time to think, it triggers an unseemly consequence:

Nothing changes.

You make little progress. You get stuck. And your effectiveness diminishes incredibly.

So how do you get out of that space that so many people get caught in?

And how do you do it in the next 7 days?


If Edison Figured it Out, You Probably Can Too

You do this: figure out a way to integrate better thinking into your daily routine.

The results can be staggering.

Better thinking results in better leadership.

I saw this demonstrated early in life. One of my favourite trips as a kid was to Greenfield Village near Ann Arbor Michigan. It’s a historic site that houses various historic landmarks in American history. One of the highlights was stopping by Thomas Edison’s lab.

Edison was a professional thinker. He organized his entire life (and factories) around thinking of things no one had thought of before.

He personally held over a thousand patents (a record). He had a placard made with the quote from Sir Joshua Reynold that sat on his desk. Something to look at every day:

“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” – Sir Joshua Reynold

Edison knew the the default in life was to avoid the real labour of thinking. So he designed his life and his business around thinking. He created labs with dozens of workers whose job is was to think – to invent – to innovate.

If you’re like me, your best ideas rarely come when you are sitting behind a keyboard and your inbox is filling up.

Maybe you can’t have a lab like Edison, but with the right attitude and discipline, you and your team can become so much more innovative than you are now.


5 New Patterns to Embrace

Here are 5 new patterns you can adopt this week to get you thinking better within the next 7 days:


6 Keys to Staying off the Emotional Roller Coaster of Ministry

Ministry is an emotional roller coaster. Much of leadership is for that matter.

One day you’re on top of the world,. The next day you want to bury yourself in a deep cave.

You probably think only the way to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry is to quit. To leave it for a more normal life.

It’s not.

In fact, I don’t recommend it.

You don’t have to abandon your calling, even though we live in an age where many do. It’s so tragic, because there is a way to survive, and even thrive.

Believe it or not, there is a way to stay in ministry and not engage all of the emotional twists and turns that leave so many leaders wrung out.

In a previous post (What Everybody Ought to Know About Emotions and Ministry), I outlined the reasons why ministry is so emotional for so many.

Knowing the reason why ministry is emotional is half the battle, but here’s the other half is about practices you follow to stay healthy.



6 Keys to Staying off the Emotional Roller Coaster of Ministry

So  what are those practices? What should you do to stay emotionally balanced and healthy?

Here are six that helped me:


Page 3 of 253«12345»102030...Last »