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5 Reasons You Should Stop Taking Leadership SO Personally

One of the problems I struggled with for years in leadership was taking every leadership triumph or set back so personally.

I let the dynamics of leadership go to my head and heart too often. My spirits soared when things were good in ministry. They sunk when they weren’t. I took too much of the weight home. Well, not just home. It followed me everywhere I went.

Over time, I’ve learned that there’s a world of difference between taking leadership seriously and taking it personally.

Leaders should always take leadership seriously. It demands our best, and we should give it. Every day.

But to take it too personally creates a roller coaster that ripples out all over the place.

When you take leadership seriously, everyone wins.

When you take it personally, almost everyone loses.

Here are 5 reasons you should stop taking leadership so personally.

leadership personally1. You’re messing up your head and your heart

If you take things too personally, you create an emotional roller coasting no one wants to ride.

As Tim Keller has pointed out, if you let success go to your head, failure will go to your heart. And that’s exactly what happens when you over-personalize your leadership.

Your head is never quite right when things are going well, because you take credit for things that perhaps rightly belong to God or to the contribution of others. Or you begin to believe it’s all you.

Conversely, when you fail, you become completely deflated, convinced God can do nothing with you or through you. You fall into despair.

The reality is that you’re not nearly as good as your best day or nearly as bad as your worst.

Healthy leaders know how to separate what they do from who they are, which leads us to the second reason you should stop taking your leadership so personally.

2. You’re confusing who you are with what you do

Far too many leaders confuse who they are with what they do.

Big mistake.

We all know we’re not supposed to confuse our identity with our work, but almost all of us do it.

You are not what you do.

Hear this:

You’re loved.

You’re forgiven.

You’re cherished.

None of this has anything to do with what you’ve done and everything to do with what Christ has done for you. That’s the Gospel.

The error in confusing who you are with what you do arises from the fact that you think you’re loved, forgiven and celebrated because you did your best.

Those who understand Christianity know that the opposite is actually true:

You do your best BECAUSE you’re loved, forgiven and cherished.

Do you see the flip?

You don’t do your best to earn God’s favour. You do your best because you have God’s favour.

Spend a day thinking and praying about that. Seriously, do a personal retreat on that one thought.

It will profoundly change how you lead.

3. You’re overemphasizing how important you are

At the heart of over personalizing leadership is this problem: you’ve unwittingly made it all about you.

Of all the scripture verses that stop me in my tracks, this verse from Galatians 6 is one of the best:

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:3 NLT

You’re just not that important.

As C.S. Lewis said, humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s simply thinking of yourself less often.

When you and I are gone, the world will keep spinning. The Kingdom of God will keep advancing.

Somehow it’s not about me. It never was. It never will be.

I just get to play a part.

4. You’re letting your personal feelings dictate the future of your organization

As goes the leader, so goes the team.

If your personal fortune goes up and down with your church or organization, eventually it doesn’t only impact you; it impacts your organization.


Because when you go down, so, eventually, does your church.

When you suffer, your organization then experiences the the impact of your dysfunctions.

A bad moment can become a bad season, because your reaction to what happens triggers the next happening.

Let’s say last month was a bad month in your organization for a variety of reasons. If you personalize those failures, last month’s results will make this month a bad month for you. And if you have a bad month this month, it’s somewhat likely that next month will be a bad month for your organization because you simply haven’t effectively led your team out of the slump (because you’re still in it).

What could have been a blip on the radar (one bad month) can easily become a slide down into a bad quarter or even a bad year.

And who needs that?

5. You’re ruining the rest of your life

I know that leadership brings a weight that only leaders understand. And to be candid, I still have a hard time not thinking about what I do. I love what I get to do. And I think about it a lot.

But it was far worse when I took my ups and downs in leadership personally.

Why? Because bad days would come home with me. Always.

When your success goes to your head and your failure goes to your heart, you always carry them home.

The people who love you will pay a price for this.

You will be arrogant or sullen…confused as to why you’re not the hero at home you are at work, or, on your bad days, resentful that your family and friends don’t want to join your miserable pity party.

The people in your life who truly love you don’t love you because of what you did at work. They just love you.

So stop ruining their lives. And yours.

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Got Another Reason?

What have you learned about taking things too personally in leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.


5 Reasons You Should Stop Taking Leadership SO Personally


  1. Mike Krutsch on May 22, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Just what I needed to hear!

    • Sergio on June 1, 2018 at 11:05 pm

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, I needed those words. be blessed

  2. Jason Haddox on May 21, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    I have reminded folks (and myself more than once) “The job description of ‘Savior of the world’ is already taken. You’re not it!” Thank you for this good and timely reminder 🙂

  3. Rick Penner on May 21, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    We hosted a graduation celebration last week for a local rescue mission recovery program. Over and over the graduates recounted WHO they were and not WHAT they were doing. Somewhere along the line they got it. It was inspiring!

  4. Benjamin on May 21, 2018 at 6:05 am

    Carey: Thanks for posting this one. Even though it was posted some time ago, I desperately needed this one. I had come across it this weekend and it spoke to the deepest parts of me. I was struggling, struggling. It helped me to set my sights where they should be– on my identity, not my performance. I was fine for the first year or two years of ministry. Since then, it has been tough. It’s easy to switch from identity and performance and not even know it. As some others have said, I’d like to see a follow up article on some practical ways to do this.

  5. Robert Fraser on May 20, 2018 at 1:20 am

    I’m embarrassed to say that Sundays are often my least favorite day. After doing the right things to grow a church yet seeing minimal growth, it feels like failure. Post-worship I’m often miserable to be around. My family is most affected.

    • Marlo Jenkins on May 20, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Thanks for sharing so honestly Robert.

  6. Marlo Jenkins on May 19, 2018 at 11:25 am

    This is great input that I need to hear. Thanks for writing this. However, it is still a little unclear to me about the ‘how’ of making this shift, outside of it the simple answer that it comes down to this being a choice.

  7. Tammy on May 19, 2018 at 10:53 am

    This is great! Thanks for sharing some wise points with us!

  8. Ramon Nachtigall on May 19, 2018 at 9:52 am

    You are so right on target. Thanks so much for these reminders of the dangers of personalizing triumphs and failures. I would like to borrow from your comments to remind myself and our leadership team. These are not areas we conquer overnight but that we need to have as a constant self-awareness of, as we daily, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”Phil. 2:12b-13(KJV).

  9. Thom Morris on May 19, 2018 at 9:22 am

    I think that it is important to remember that we have our part, God has his part, and other’s have their part.

  10. […] I wish it didn’t, but you know how that goes. Talk to any author with an email list and they’ll tell you how much unsubscribes go to their heart (because we take it way too personally.) […]

  11. Zachary Verbracken on October 7, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Man, so good. Reminds me of a Craig Groeschel quote: “if you blame yourself for the decrease, you’ll be tempted to take credit for the increase.”

    I think all leaders struggle with this… I know I do.. But just like being a workaholic, I think sadly it’s one of those unhealthy habits that gets rewarded by people.

    Would you consider taking things too personally and taking responsibility for yourself to be different, or closer to the same? For example, I love a leader who takes responsibility for their actions, but I can see how that might lead to taking things too personally. That’s probably what leads to the struggle for me.

  12. Ron Hudson on October 2, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Adding to #2 If I tie my identity to a specific position of influence and power eventually I will abuse the influence and power to keep,the position. I’ve seen it happen to enough other leaders to know it could happen to me. Great post. Thank you.

  13. Nate Edmondson on October 2, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Great post. I could have used it a few years ago, but I still need it today. Thanks for making the scripture central to your point by quoting Galatians. I’m going to highlight it and, hopefully, memorize it to fight the temptation to make things about me instead of Jesus.

  14. Josh on October 2, 2015 at 8:15 am

    How did you move past this? I’m in it now…and struggling. It’s always personal when someone leaves your church…it’s even more personal when it’s someone that you have poured extra parts of your life into & love deeply.

  15. Lawrence W. Wilson on October 2, 2015 at 6:21 am

    And one more reason? It makes you miserable.

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