Tov Leadership: YOUnique
Tov is from the Hebrew word for "good," but with a fuller intent which implies something which fulfills the purpose for which it was created.
Tov Leadership and spiritual formation are inseparable. It is not possible to lead beyond where our spiritual formation has us.
With those both as a reminder and a starting point, let's get into our topic for today: YOUnique.
The “You do You” memes and many others in that same vein are all over the interwebs. There are many directions this can take a person. Some are not healthy and not in pursuit of Jesus, but others can be healthy. I loved this thought from Ryan Holiday:
At birth, each of us is original. Our DNA has never existed before on this planet. No one will ever have our unique set of experiences. No one will ever have our totally unique point of view.
Breathe that in for a moment. Your DNA and mine have never existed before on this planet. Let that speak to you. Let that reality envelop all parts of you. God made you unique and breathed life into you when you were born into this world! On that day, our Creator deposited into us our first breath, and we were a blessing to this world. Each of us became a new and unique human that had never existed before. I believe that our creative Creator created us uniquely for a purpose that He has and will continue to place before us. (You might want to read that again.)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10
So you might be asking yourself, “Hey, Terry, what does this have to do with my leadership, and where exactly are you going with this in the spirit of Tov Leadership?” Well, I’m glad I read your mind. Here is my point, and we will unpack this a bit.
As I said, you are unique, and you were wonderfully made for a purpose and a magnanimous one at that. Yes, magnanimous! Look it up. This is a word that was brought to my attention by my friend and mentor, J. Lee. Your very life and the purpose placed inside of you never existed before you entered this world, and it will never exist again after you take your last breath. Therefore, you must, I beg you, you must lean into who you are and not chase after, desire something different, or be molded into something you were never designed to be.
One of my favorite authors and leadership coaches, Steve Cuss, unpacks this beautifully. (Side note: I highly recommend his book, Managing Leadership Anxiety, as well as the entire season of a wonderful podcast he joined called Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership (listen). While I'm on this topic, Ruth Haley Barton, the podcast host, is also amazing. Her books, podcasts, and content will be worth your investment.)
Differentiation is what Steve explains and brings to our attention. He says, “The differentiated self is a connected presence. Curious. Non Reactive. Keeping anxiety from spreading to others, sifting assumptions and false expectations. Connecting to self, others. and God. Ok, stop and reread that statement.”
Let’s press into this more with a thought from an article at Psychology Today:
Differentiation is the ability to balance the autonomy and the attachment so it is not an either/or. The more differentiated you become, the closer these two forces become. Essentially, it is the ability to be connected to your thoughts, values, and feelings, while also being close to someone, especially when that person is very important to you. Alternatively, it could be defined as being close without being reactive. I like to define differentiation as simply being “big and together.”
You see, God made you unique, and He designed you for a magnanimous purpose. To fulfill that calling in your life, you must be a differentiated self. You can be connected with the mission you are a part of and still be able to operate in the gift mix that God has given you. You can be a great employee, while honoring your calling and not morphing into a different person, because that is what the culture often requires, encourages, and rewards.
Tov Leaders do the ongoing hard work to understand who they are uniquely created to be and pursue that life-long journey and calling with their whole, true, and integrated self.
I have the voice of my counselor/therapist in my mind and what I hear is self-awareness followed by self-leadership. We start with the self-awareness of our gifts, talents, and unique design. And then, we step deep into self-leadership to align our choices, decisions, and path forward, integrating them into our whole self. If it seems complex and challenging, just know this is a lifelong journey, and we don’t go at it alone! “Self” doesn’t mean without the Spirit’s guidance and wisdom, and full integration means Christ is at the center of it all.
But here is the challenge, and your mind might already be in this place. Often our environments, cultures, bosses, corporate ladders, paychecks and bonuses, and safety and security override our unique gifts and talents. When that occurs, we lose the differentiated self. I have also personally struggled in trying to become more like other leaders whom I respect and value. When my focus shifts like this, I can fall into a dangerous trap.
Sometimes this can happen quickly and abruptly, but I have seen this more often happen very slowly and over time. When we find ourselves un-differentiated and morphed and molded into a gift mix or calling that is not designed for us, we are no longer operating in the prepared works that God has for us.
You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs. —Bill Plotkin
I can't say it better than that. The world needs you to be the you that our Creator created you to be.
Lord, help us and guide us! There are so many things that shift our focus off the unique calling you have placed within our DNA. Father, I ask that you give us the curiosity, courage, and energy to step into our magnanimous true self and offer our gift to the world. Amen.