Relevant Leadership

Helping Leaders To Be More

Relevant Leadership is a site to help equip, train, and empower youth pastors and their volunteer leaders to effect a generation of students for the Glory of God.

The Key To Success For Young Leaders

Knowing what makes you tick and what ticks you off is the key to success for young leaders. Reggie McNeal of Leadership Network wrote, “The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness.”  Self-awareness means knowing what motivates, moves, and manages you.  It is the quest for self-understanding.  Young leaders who lack self-awareness are in for a rude awakening.  In this article I want to share with you three key areas you must know about yourself in order to be successful and sustain extraordinary leadership.  Most of this material comes directly from Reggie McNeal’s book Practicing Greatness.  It is available here:  Practicing Greatness

Image by Joshua Earle on

Image by Joshua Earle on

1.    The Family of Origin.  Extraordinary leaders know that in order to get where they want to go they must first understand where they’ve been.  They must dig into some deep, dark, and scary areas of the past in order to launch forward.  While normal people avoid this practice like the plague, extraordinary leaders find the biggest shovel they can wield and begin to unearth their hidden addictions and compulsions. One key area that forms our compulsions early in life is our “Family of Origin.” Reggie McNeal says, “We learn our first life lessons in our family of origin, then we spend the rest of our lives either building on these lessons or trying to overcome them.” In order to launch forward we must uncover and uproot bad ideas, addictions, and compulsions they’ve inherited from our parents or guardians. We must build separation from our family of origin by becoming independent and responsible for our own lives.  As leaders, we must know how our family has shaped us and then we must learn how to reshape those areas that bring chaos and destruction.


2.    Hidden Addictions and Compulsions.  Hidden addictions and compulsions include problems with drugs or alcohol, sex addictions, a lust for power, compulsive eating, adrenaline addiction, workaholism, approval craving, and many more.   Most people recognize the first few compulsions on the list as being a problem.  But what about thrill seeking or people pleasing?  All of these areas will cause a leader to self-destruct unless they are managed effectively.  We must first understand our hidden addictions and compulsions.  Chances are as you’re reading this there is an issue running through your mind with which you struggle.  Take it on!  Through Jesus, God gives us grace and forgiveness and through the Holy Spirit the power to overcome any flesh-driven issue.  We, however, must do our part to manage our out-of-control desires.  To steal a phrase from Andy Stanley, we must put guardrails in place in order to keep us from plunging off the cliff of addiction and compulsion. 


3.    Boundaries.  Reggie McNeal describes boundaries as fences.  He said, “Boundaries let us know where we end and where the rest of the world picks up.” Henry Cloud and Steve Townsend have identified four problematic boundary types:  Compliants, avoidants, controllers, and nonresponsives.  Compliants are people who allove others to violate their personal boundaries mainly because they don’t want to hurt others feelings.  Avoidants shut the gates when they should let others in.  In other words, avoidants withdraw under pressure.  Controllers are those who don’t respect others’ boundaries or don’t even realize boundaries exist.  Lastly nonresponsives are leaders who have learned to deal with boundary issues by not responding to others’ needs or problems.  Learning to set healthy boundaries is relatively easy.  Enforcing them is difficult.  As leaders we must set healthy boundaries and clearly communicate them to those with whom we live, work, and play.   We must be aware of which boundary bent we relate above and how to overcome it in order to maintain healthy boundaries.  Healthy boundaries produce healthy leadership. Get some boundaries today!


Together we’ve learned how important it is to surface the deep, dark, ugly parts of life in order to better serve those we lead.  Using our strengths well and managing our weaknesses effectively helps us make a lasting impact.  Don’t be afraid to dig deep into who you are.  God has gifted you for greatness.  Don’t let a lack of self-awareness come between you and God’s best for you.  Know, grow, and go after all God has for you! 

- Brad French