You may have heard the proverb: “Physician, heal thyself.” The famous words are found in Luke chapter 4 in the brief the moment between when Jesus’ audience “spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” and 6 verses later when they were furious and tried to “throw Him off the cliff.” Talk about a tough crowd!
There are 2 principles we can learn from this moment between amazed and furious when the listeners say, “Physician heal thyself” – or in our terms, “Leader, lead yourself!”
1. The Principle of Self-Examination
Self-awareness is a prerequisite to self-governance. If you know your strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and makeup, you are far more likely to be successful when faced with leadership challenges. You’ll hire better people, seek the right skill sets, control the right facets of the business, and let go of others. Without self-awareness, you’re more likely to become insecure and agitated as you face struggles in your leadership role.
No one is perfect. Your team’s not perfect. You’re not perfect either. We know we have weaknesses, but there’s something healthy and refreshing about owning them. Others will see your flaws. White-washing them only makes you a leader they can’t really trust. Resist perfectionist thinking here… this is not an all-or-none proposition. Owning your strengths and weaknesses makes you real – not a failure.
There are a host of self-evaluation resources available in books and online. Ask a trusted mentor for their recommendations, or try these. Caveat: I’m not certified, endorsed or paid for these recommendations. I just like them.
- Strengths Based Leadership
- Kolbe-A Index – Measures Instinctual Actions
- Entrepreneurial Strengths Finder
2. The Principle of Self-Exhortation
Leadership involves working to foster a climate of collaboration and mutual respect. But what happens when you’re working to that end and run smack into a wall of resistance… or worse? Strong leadership generates resistance. It’s said if there’s no resistance (conflict), you’re not actually leading.
In Luke, Jesus anticipated criticism and rejection from those in his hometown who knew him best. They knew him best. Surely they would understand his motives, right? Well, in the space of 6 verses they turned into an angry mob. While I hope you never face an angry mob, you may be unpopular, underestimated or just misunderstood. It’s likely you’ll be resented or ridiculed and it may come from sources closer than you’d think.
It helps to be prepared. Set yourself up to weather the turbulence with a few key strategies.
A. Get Perspective Before You Give Credence:
Don’t take it to heart until you vet and filter it. Run the criticism by a trusted peer or mentor. Get perspective on the situation and the feedback you’re receiving before you respond emotionally or “buy in.” Not every critic is a good one.
A few years ago, I ran into unexpected criticism. A person I was working with at the time wheeled on me and called me the spawn of satan (and several choice expletives). I was shocked, but I could either take the bait or check the weight. I know how I treat others and “spawn of satan” hardly applies. I got external verification that I had not made gross errors or unknowingly caused injury. I hadn’t. So, I let the criticism and the critic go. Then I refused to replay that reel in my head. No credence.
B. Have Self-Exhortation Strategies:
Exhortation is defined as “strongly encouraging.” Self-exhortation (not technically a real word) would then be strongly encouraging yourself. Plan tactics to refill your motivation bucket. Inspirational videos, quotes, a song, a poem, prayer, a walk, a workout… whatever clears your head and helps you refocus. Do something to encourage yourself in the face of resistance.
It may be something deep, or just silly… it only matters that it helps you refocus and fill your motivation bucket. True confession: I keep a playlist of upbeat, motivational songs on my phone. One of them is “Happy” by Pharell Williams. …Yes, the song from Despicable Me. It’s just hard to stay upset when that song is in my head. Even if it’s silly, do what works for YOU.
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
If you’re leading, you’re going to run into resistance, rage or ridicule at times. But if you care about your people and your mission, you’ll know yourself, get perspective on criticism, and plan ways to build up your own motivation and encouragement. Lead yourself and others to victory.