Recently everyone on our church staff took a very detailed personality test. You’ve probably taken quizzes like this before where you end up with some sort of acronym, symbol, animal or number that categorizes you as a certain type of individual. The idea is that once you understand your specific combination of characteristics, you can work with your peers more effectively and manage your time more efficiently.
The results of this particular quiz were disturbingly accurate. Like usual, there were certain statements that made me feel a sense of pride (like my ability to organize and accomplish tasks), and others that left me with hints of embarrassment and shame (like my desire to please others and my desperate need for approval).
While I found it interesting, this was nothing I hadn’t heard before. But towards the end of my automated report, I read two things I didn’t expect to see. According to this test, I am not creative and I am not a good leader.
For some reason, those two statements computed by a robot somewhere hit me really hard. Over the past several years, those were two of the first words I would have used to describe myself. I have quite a bit of leadership experience and my career field requires me to create several new projects every day.
All of a sudden, I began to question my identity. Was I wrongfully over-confident in my leadership? Maybe I confused “creativity” with the skill of successfully mimicking other people’s ideas. Maybe I was given leadership roles just because I went to a small school. Maybe my view of myself was skewed by a supportive community coaching me to believe I was good at something I really wasn’t. If I couldn’t lead and I wasn’t creative, maybe I needed to completely re-think my career path. Maybe I wasn’t really who I thought I was. And even scarier, maybe everyone around me already knew it.
It may sound silly to you, but I think we all do this to some extent. Regardless of any amount of success we may have experienced in the past, one small setback can trigger all kinds of doubt in our human minds. We’re fragile creatures that can easily be convinced that we’re not as special as we thought we were. Even the most confident and boastful leaders out there are vulnerable to one critical review from someone they trust.
Now that I’ve had a couple months to process this situation, I’ve come away with two lessons I think we all could benefit from.
Parts of the body
First, we all have unique gifts and personalities. For people like me raised in the church, a lot of biblical truths like this become so cliché that we often forget about their practical applications. In Romans 12, Paul describes spiritual gifts by comparing them to parts of our bodies. In his example, he explains how ridiculous it would be for an eye to be jealous of a hand, or for a head to try to get rid of its own feet. If any individual function isn’t working, the body doesn’t work as completely as the Designer originally planned.
I know you’ve probably heard this before, and I had too. Forget about the over-used analogies for a second and think about this from a business sense. There has to be some sort of hierarchy and structure in a company in order to be successful. If every employee had equal responsibility and equal job descriptions, one of two things would happen: either nothing would get done, or the same small task would be completed over and over again with no opportunity for growth. There has to be a leader that others look to, and there has to be specialized workers who achieve individual tasks they are skilled at. It doesn’t work to have 1,000 eyes and zero hands (unless you’re a character in Monsters, Inc.).
It may seem a lot cooler and more glamorous to be an eye or a CEO, but every body and every company also relies on hundreds of other parts that are crucial to success. While society values some roles over others, we can’t forget the importance of a complete team.
Strengths and weaknesses
Second, it’s important to embrace who you are. Whatever labels or titles you use to identify yourself, there are positives and negatives that go along with each one. Our greatest strengths also come with potential weaknesses. Great innovators may not be the best people to handle your financial spreadsheets. Your legal advisor may not be able to come up with a great logo. Interns and new employees may have great ideas that older management leaders wouldn’t have thought of, but their lack of experience and knowledge of the industry can also lead to avoidable mistakes.
When I was processing my test results, I began to realize that I actually like who I am. Sure there are things I would like to change, but I also remembered how much it drives me nuts when things are unorganized. I may not be the creative genius I wish I was, but I can knock out several projects a day when a vision is passed on to me. My compassion and desire for unity may make it difficult for me to be the central leader, but I can rally the troops with a friendly approach that senior leaders probably couldn’t.
Trust the Creator
When we criticize our own gifts and talents, we’re essentially saying that we don’t trust God to use us the way He planned. The Bible repeatedly proves that God has specific plans in mind for each of us, and He has gifted us accordingly. We all have inadequacies and insecurities, but we also have strengths and beneficial characteristics that other people don’t have.
Remember the body analogy from Paul. Instead of living in regret wishing you had more ears, embrace your role as an elbow. If you are an eye, think about how hard it would be to do your job without feet. Both in your job and in your role in the Church, take advantage of your gifts and personality to make the body function at its best capacity.