Dear Discouraged Leader (5 Questions to Ask Before You Implode)

Dear Discouraged  Leader,

Being a leader isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But it isn’t the hardest thing in the world either.

You’re not alone. Leadership is hard at times. In fact, if you’re really leading, there’s rarely a season that isn’t filled with challenges.

Just as you solve one problem, two more pop up. You solve them, and out of the corner of your eye, spot the next one.

I get it.

After seeing leader after leader struggle with discouragement and want to quit long before their calling ran out, I wanted to write this note (HT to Casey Graham).

None of us really feel like the most successful person on earth. I don’t. You don’t.

And even though things are going well at the moment and I have so much to be thankful for, I spend too many days wondering whether I’m missing something or feeling like we should be making more progress than we should.

You know what it’s like… The weight of:

  • Budget and expenses
  • People who promise the moon but never even deliver the earth
  • New people who say they’re in and then walk out
  • Your leadership feeling like it’s always under a microscope
  • Not being where you thought you would be at this point in your leadership or life
  • Uncertainty. Constant uncertainty.
  • Team members you’re struggling with and just don’t know how to deal with
  • Knowing your organization isn’t perfect and wishing it would be but knowing it won’t ever be
  • Lack of gratitude; in others and in you
  • Feeling let down by others
  • You letting yourself down
  • Seeing other people’s organizations & speaking & believing they have it easier than you do

And on and on and on it goes…

This is the side of leadership they never teach you in college.

So I want you to know something.  The discouragement you feel inside is real & coming from somewhere. Think about this and let this sink in for a while today:

The happiest and healthiest people are those whose expectations meet reality.

What do you do with that?

Here are five questions every discouraged leader would do well to ask themselves before they give up or give in.

The happiest & healthiest people are those whose expectations meet reality. Click To Tweet

1. What Do I Expect My Organization to Give Me?

No organization will ever give you ultimate peace, fulfillment, joy, purpose, or anything like that. Not even a church.  If you are expecting that from being a leader, you won’t find it.

If you are constantly discouraged or frustrated about your organization, it might be because you are hoping it will give you something only God can give you.

And when you look to people or things to give you what only God can give you, you’re signing up for misery.

When you look to people or things to give you what only God can give you, you're signing up for misery. Click To Tweet

2. Who Do I Hope Will Affirm Me?

This is a big one.

We all look for affirmation from people.

Here’s something someone told me a long time ago that I really don’t like because it’s really so true: Never expect the people you lead to affirm you. 

It’s not fair to them. And ultimately it’s not fair to you.

Your job is to lead them, not to get them to try to affirm you.

Hey, if it comes…awesome. Consider that a bonus. But if you keep looking to them for their praise, you’ll end up sliding down the slippery slope under question 3…

Never expect the people you lead to affirm you. (Your job is to lead them, not to get them to try to affirm you.) Click To Tweet

3. Who Am I Trying to Please?

You will never please your employees or the people you serve fully.  It’s impossible because we are imperfect people & they are as well.

If you are trying to please other church leader or get recognized, you will be miserable.  You can never keep up with anyone else’s expectations. And you’ll let yourself, your family and ultimately God down.

If you focused on being liked, you won’t lead. Your insistence on pleasing everyone will mean you ultimately please no one.

Not to mention yourself.

If you focused on being liked, you won't lead. Your insistence on pleasing everyone will mean you ultimately please no one. Click To Tweet

4. How Honest Am I Being With Myself and Others?

If you stuff your leadership failures & missed expectations instead of dealing with them, you will implode or explode one day.  Your discouragement & mine often comes from stuffing things we should just admit and deal with.

If you have a problem with another person, be completely honest with them.  If you are mad at somebody, tell them.

If somebody let you down, let them now.  If you have let yourself down, tell a friend.

Lying and pretending leads to misery.  Just say it. I have done this numerous times and it’s terrible up front but so freeing in the end. And you know what?

Much of the time you end up saving the relationship.

If you won’t be honest with others, you also won’t be able to truly lead them.

If you won't be honest with others, you also won't be able to truly lead them. Click To Tweet

5. What Lie Am I Believing?

Gurus make it seem so easy, don’t they? Go to their conference or buy their product and all your problems disappear. Did you ever buy into that lie at some point?

Chances are you thought leadership would be easier. Well, that’s just a lie.

Identify the lie you are believing & you will crush some of the discouragement.  The lie that marketers sell you is really killing your spirit. We only need to look at the scripture to discover that leadership was rarely easy.

Your discouragement isn’t just discouragement.  It’s a symptom of something deeper going on.  If you want to create a healthy culture in your organization, you can’t live mad all the time.  You can’t be frustrated 24/7.  Take a step today & answer these questions honestly.

I believe it will help you beat your discouragement & get back on the growth track.

It’s a lie to say leadership is easy. It’s the absolute truth, though, that humble, determined, committed leadership is worth it.

It's a lie to say leadership is easy. It's the absolute truth, though, that humble, determined, committed leadership is worth it. Click To Tweet

Let’s Get You Thriving

You know what makes leadership harder than it needs to be?

Overwhelm. And almost every leader I know is overwhelmed.

Let me show you how to beat that.

Want to find far more time at work and at home?  Want to really crack not just getting a day off, but finding more time for what matters most every single day?

It’s very possible…and I’d love to help you get on top of your everything so you can get your life and leadership back.

If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – First Priority, Clayton County, North Carolina

“Carey’s course was the perfect way for our team to prepare for the new year. Our team, both collectively and individually, took a fresh look at maximizing our time and leadership gifts for the year ahead. I highly recommend this leadership development resource for you and your team.” Jeff Henderson, Gwinnett Church, Atlanta Georgia

“A lot of books and programs make big promises and cannot deliver but this is not one of them. I have read so many books and watched videos on productivity but the way you approach it and teach is helpful and has changed my work week in ministry in amazing ways.” Chris Sloan, Tanglewood Church, Kingston, North Carolina

“Just wow.  Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell, Invitation Church, Sioux Falls South Dakota

A game changer.” Pam Perkins, Red Rock Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reinvent yourself?

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What Helps You Beat Discouragement?

We all get discouraged. What helps you beat it?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

6 Comments

  1. Doug Bartlett on April 23, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Love this article. What helps me overcome discouragement is to focus on the big picture. Discouragement is just one component of the entire journey of ministry. There are many other reasons to celebrate and enjoy ministry as well.

    Related to number 5, I heard one leader say, “Discouragement is the number one weapon in the devil’s arsenal against ministry leaders.” Discouragement is sometimes tied to deception about ourselves and what we (wrongly) perceive from others.

  2. Mark on April 23, 2019 at 10:52 am

    You need to remember though that you have achieved a leadership role. If you are discouraged, try being on the side with the people who cannot and will not be allowed into leadership. If you need to cut out nonsense from your schedule, do it. If you need to shorten incessant meetings, do it. I will guarantee you that while you may feel overwhelmed, there are people under you who feel neglected. They see for whom you have time and can be available.

  3. Chuck on April 22, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    I think I rely far too much on affirmation. Affirmation (right amount, right source) is validated in scripture. Too much of it is also cautioned against in scripture. Trying to find a healthy middle is a challenge for me personally. Good post!

  4. Charlotte Brown on April 22, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you for this timely and spot-on post Carey. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were listening in on my talk with God this morning. It’s good to know I’m not alone.
    Blessings to you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 22, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      Keep going Charlotte. 🙂

  5. Len Walker on April 22, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Great post. Thanks.

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