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  • Writer's pictureDerek Allen

The Challenge of Leading Self

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

What's the secret to self leadership? It's simple.

During a recent sabbatical, I started writing a book on leadership. I quickly wrote the first three chapters, which lay the foundation for the rest of the book. Chapter 4 was supposed to be a chapter titled "Lead Self." As I began writing that chapter, I ran into a giant brick wall. It wasn't a writer's block--it was an epiphany about self-leadership.

Leading self is our greatest opportunity and our greatest challenge

Leadership is A --> B

Leadership is A --> B where A is where people are, B is where people ought to be, and --> is a process of guiding people from A to B. In written form, leadership is the process of guiding people from where they are to where they ought to be. In applying this definition to self-leadership, it quickly became apparent that 1) according to Scripture, our sin blinds us so that we don't know where we ought to be (Romans 3:10-18), and 2) we have a hard time being honest with ourselves about where we actually are (Luke 18:9-14, Jeremiah 17:9), and 3) even if we know where we were and where we ought to be, we have no idea how to get from one point to the other (Proverbs 16:25). In other words, we are completely incapable of leading ourselves! That was the first part of the epiphany.

The secret to self-leadership is realizing it's impossible. . .

Hope Springs Eternal

"Define a clear life mission and a dream for the current season of your life, then set goals that accomplish that mission and dream, work hard towards those goals, evaluate your progress, and repeat the process. As you encounter barriers, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep going. Don't give up, work even harder, and watch motivational speeches--you are powerful, and you can do this!" If you want to hear that message over and over again, then go to the bookstore and start reading. Those kinds of books, articles, and videos are like ice cream--they are hard to resist, they have their place in small doses, but they will not sustain you. The gospel truth is that we are weak, and we can't do this.

If you are looking for real, sustaining hope in self-leadership, however, there's a secret--the secret to self leadership is realizing it's impossible; that's the first part of the secret. The second part of the secret to self-leadership is redefining it as followership. The greatest (and only) act of self-leadership we can ever take is daily surrender to the leadership of Jesus.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

I'm still working on the book, but now, the chapter titled Lead Self is turning into it's own book. It's a book that challenges us to deny ourselves (our dreams, our personalities, our passions, our pursuits), and follow Jesus. As leaders who are Christians, there can be no other path.

For more information about Derek, visit for more information about Christ Centered Church in Miami, visit

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