Your heart is the most important leadership tool you have. It is not your experience, knowledge, or skills. It is your heart that matters most of all.
Back in the mid-80s, I started my own business. My partner and I left big corporate jobs, developed a business plan, and began raising money for our new venture.
We had one investor who promised to make a sizable investment. However, he ran us through the ringer. The due diligence process was all-consuming. We really didn’t have time to court anyone else. We made the fatal mistake of putting most of our eggs in one basket.
After months of back-and-forth, the investor decided not to make the investment after all. We were left high and dry, with about $12.00 in our checking account. We were disappointed, angry, and ready to quit. We almost lost heart.
However, that experience wouldn’t be the last time I experienced an assault on my heart. In my journal, I have cataloged almost twenty distinct situations where I was ready to quit and throw in the towel. In fact, as I have grown older, the conflict has intensified.
This is why, I think, as leaders we must be diligent to guard our hearts. King Solomon said it best: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
This is necessary for at least three reasons:
- Because your heart is extremely valuable. We don’t guard worthless things. I take my garbage to the street every Wednesday night. It is picked up on Thursday morning. It sits on the sidewalk all night, completely unguarded. Why? Because it is worthless.
Not so with your heart. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people.
Just like your physical body, if your heart—your spiritual heart—dies, your leadership dies. This is why Solomon says, “Above all else.” He doesn’t say, “If you get around to it” or “It would be nice if.” No, he says, make it your top priority.
- Because your heart is the source of everything you do. King Solomon says it is the “wellspring of life.” In other words, it is the source of everything else in your life. Your heart overflows into thoughts, words, and actions.
In Tennessee, where I live, we have thousands and thousands of natural springs, where water flows to the surface of the earth from deep under the ground. It then accumulates in pools or runs off into creeks and streams.
If you plug up the spring, you stop the flow of water. If you poison the water, the flow becomes toxic. In either situation, you threaten life downstream. Everything depends on the condition of the spring.
Likewise, if your heart is unhealthy, it has an impact on everything else. It threatens your family, your friends, your ministry, your career, and, indeed, your legacy. It is, therefore, imperative that you guard it.
- Because your heart is under constant attack. When Solomon says to guard your heart, he implies that you are living in a combat zone—one in which there are casualties.
Many of us are oblivious to the reality of this war. We have an enemy who is bent on our destruction. He not only opposes God, but he opposes everything that is aligned with Him—including us.
I think that pastors are particularly vulnerable. An August 1, 2010 article in the New York Times reports that,
Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”
Satan uses all kinds of weapons to attack our heart. For me, these attacks often come in the form of some circumstance that leads to disappointment, discouragement, or even disillusionment. In these situations, I am tempted to quit—to walk off the field and surrender.
This is why if you and I are going to succeed as leaders—and survive as individuals—we must guard our hearts. They are more important than we can possibly imagine. If we lose heart, we have lost everything.
In order to nurture—or recover—your heart, read my post, The Four Disciplines of the Heart.