Leadership Limits: The Art of Knowing When You’re Done

877270_52065388 Here is the truth: God created us all with limits.

This is just a simple fact, but one that so many of us don’t realize or accept. In fact, if you read through the creation accounts in early Genesis you’ll start to see that God created Adam and Eve with limits too. Limits remind us of something – that we need each other. We can’t do it alone.

And here is how this relates to leadership.

Leaders are often reluctant to embrace their limits. They push harder, they work longer, and dig deeper. None of this is bad in the short-term, but in the long-term it’s disastrous. To pretend that you can lead and push through and not acknowledge your limits will kill your leadership. It might not today, and it might not tomorrow, but it will happen.

When you refuse to admit you’re tapped out, you are actually denying part of the essence of leadership: relying on and empowering others. Pretending you don’t need anyone or don’t have any limits doesn’t help you, and it certainly doesn’t help your organization, business, or team. Limits are inherent to who we are, and knowing them helps us to lead better and longer.

Of course self-discipline, drive, and a strong work ethic are crucial to leadership. But so too is knowing when you start to run dry.

So here are two questions I ask myself at least once a month. And I think they are good questions for anyone in leadership to ask. It’s this:

  • Have I not asked for help this month when I needed it? 
  • Have I embraced both my limitation and my responsibilities?

These two question help me stay on track and I hope they help you too.

The Gift of Limits

1395612_80122675Today I want to explore a little bit about what God gives in Genesis 1 and 2 to Adam and Eve. The first few chapters of Genesis are crucial for theology as we see the foundation for humanity, without the mark of sin. And what is interesting is that God gives Adam and Eve two things: responsibility and limitations. And let me say this, both are gifts.

God gives Adam and Eve responsibility, to be “fruitful and multiply” and steward the earth (Genesis 1:28). We are familiar with this part of the story; that they are given responsibilities and a task. And we understand this for our own lives. That God gives us gifts, abilities, and responsibilities that go along with those gifts. We are called to steward not only the earth, but our responsibilities well – and to increase the flourishing of life around us.

Yet God also does something very interesting. He sets limits. He gives Adam and Eve the garden to tend to, but sets very precise limits about its location and its boundaries (Genesis 2:10). And I think this is really something that we miss. God gives limits because limits are a blessing. We cannot be responsible for everything. We cannot do everything we want to. Responsibility reminds us of our calling to others, and limits reminds us of our need for others.

We cannot accomplish the calling of God upon our lives without both of these things, limits and boundaries, in equal play in our lives. If we live without limits we burn ourselves out, tend to use people, and forget we need others. If we live without responsibility we become a burden to others, self-centered, and destructive. We need to use our responsibility, but acknowledge our limits. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I can’t do more”. God gave limits to Adam and Eve in the garden before there was sin. Limits then are not a result of the fall, but a gift of God to remind us we need each other. I can’t do it all, and neither can you. We need one another.

So I think this is worth thinking about. To reflect on what responsibilities has God given you? And what limitations has he also given you? Who can you lean on when you come to your limits, and how might they help you to see a greater flourishing of life around you?

The point is this, limits aren’t a bad thing, they may be one of the biggest blessings God has given us if we would but acknowledge them.

Irresponsibility Kills Roots

739385_87460520

On Sunday we explored a key to all our relationships: responsibility. The truth is that if we want to have deep relationships, if we want to have solid friendships, if we want to have healthy roots in our families, we need to learn to be responsible. Irresponsibility kills roots and kills relationships.

My guess is that in your family and friends the people who bug you the most are in some way irresponsible. They aren’t owning and being accountable for their own stuff. Because the reality is, that whenever someone is irresponsible, someone else has to pick up the slack. So on Sunday we explored this theme of irresponsibility and looked at the first family in Adam and Eve.

What we discovered is that irresponsibility is really easy to see in someone else, but really hard to see in ourselves. So we asked ourselves, “Are we being responsible in our relationships?” Through the story of Adam and Eve we discovered some signs of irresponsibility. The first is blame. Whenever we start blaming, we are trying to shift responsibility. Adam blames Eve for eating the fruit, Eve blames the serpent, and people have been blaming ever since. But if we want healthy relationships we need to stop blaming and start owning our issues. The second sign of irresponsibility is when people start hiding. Whenever you start hiding conversations, maybe your spending, or where you are spending your time there is a responsibility problem. Adam and Eve, right after they eat the fruit, hide so that they don’t need to take responsibility. We need though to stand up and stop hiding and start owning our mistakes, failures, and become accountable. The last sign of irresponsibility was if we are creating new rules. Rules are created to curb irresponsibility, although they never really work. After Adam and Eve’s failure the story of the Bible is really a story of creation of many new rules to curb bad behavior. Finally, with Jesus the rules get thrown out (the Law) and he gives us the task of being responsible (loving God and others). So the point is that if we are needing to create lots of new rules in our families, friendships, or even businesses there is a responsibility problem that needs to be dealt with.

So we ended off asking people to honestly think through this question: “Am I being responsible” Because being responsible in relationships leads to deep roots. And I think that’s what we want. Relationships that last, thrive, and are healthy and whole. But that only happens when we start taking responsibility.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Responsibility leads to deep roots

Take Aways…

  • Irresponsibility always leads to more rules
  • Irresponsibility is easy to see in someone else and hard to see in yourself
  • Am I honestly being responsible in my relationships
  • When people are responsible rules aren’t needed
  • Whenever rules are broken consequences soon follow
  • Signs of Irresponsibility in a Relationship
    • Blaming
    • Hiding
    • Creating New Rules
  • Rules never create responsibility
  • Responsibility leads to deep roots
  • Ways to build responsibility:
    • Stop hiding and start dealing with things
    • Stop blaming and start owning things
    • Stop creating new rules and start taking responsibility

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? Were there any stories or examples Andrew used that you could relate too? As you look in your own life are there any areas where you blame, or hide? Are there things you are being irresponsible with? How can you stand up and start taking responsibility for them?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk with your kids about rules and responsibility. Ask them if they’d like to live without rules. Tell them that if they’d like less rules, they need to take more responsibility. Talk to them about how being responsible (doing what is right) builds trust and you need less rules. Use some recent examples either good or bad from your own family life about how to illustrate this. Talk to them about giving them more freedom as they show more responsibility.

Challenge for this Week:

Take responsibility in your relationships