Why Self-Reliance Kills Your Leadership

Faith is critical to all innovation. Without faith, it’s suicidal to be a leader, to act like a heretic. Religion, on the other hand, represents a strict set of rules that our fellow humans have overlaid on top of our faith. Religion supports the status quo and encourages us to fit in, not to stand out.

Seth Godin, “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us 


My friend James, who works for a large bank, defines leadership as “managing change.” He described how his organization expects leaders to be in perpetual motion as it relates to innovation. Nothing is ever static. They are constantly on a path forward and the leaders within the bank are marching out front.

Until that moment, I had always believed that managing change was a part of leadership, but had not contemplated change as the primary responsibility.

The more I have considered that concept the more it makes sense.

I remember Bill Hybels once saying that our role as leaders is to help people move “from here to there.” In its essence, Pastor Bill was saying that our role as leaders is to help people change.

In the church world, where I serve, change is what’s on the menu. I am constantly working with people to help them change their perspective of God. We work together in expectation of God to change circumstances. And, corporately, we are continually looking for the best ways to serve so we can help people implement effective change in their lives.

The status quo is not a satisfactory place to be. Healthy living things grow. Healthy people should be growing. Growth, by nature, will include change. Change is hard. Change hurts.

Healthy people should be growing. Growth, by nature, will include change. Change is hard. Change hurts. Click To Tweet

As Seth Godin describes in his book “Tribes,” faith is an essential characteristic for leadership. You cannot lead change and innovation without a significant level of faith.

But the question we must then ask is, “In what (or whom) do I put my faith?”

Faith is another way of saying trust. So where is my trust?

Do I trust myself? Do I put my trust in my own experience or in my skills and talents?

As a leader who has experienced success, it can be difficult not to put the bulk of trust in oneself.

“I’m pretty talented.”

“I’m pretty smart.”

I’ve lead my team and my organization through some tricky stuff in the past.”

“I’m a winner.”

“I trust me! And so should everyone else!”

Clearly, as a person who claims their ultimate faith (or trust) in Jesus, such self-reliance is warrant for red flags going up everywhere. Maybe there is some basis for reflecting on past successes and demonstrated leadership. To some degree, I would like my team to trust me because I have demonstrated trustworthiness.

But ultimately I want my team to trust me because I put my trust in the One who is ultimately in control. So the challenge as a leader, especially as a leader who has had some degree of success, is to be continually growing in faith and trust in God.

Here are a few verses on which to reflect as it relates to putting our trust in the One who is most trustworthy:

Proverbs 28:26
Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.

That last one is one of my “life verses”. If I need to move from here to there, Lord, help me, I want the path to be as straight as possible.

What are your thoughts? Any other passages on trust that you reflect on when it comes to trusting in God to lead you as you lead others? Scroll down and enter your comments below.