Various people have different ideas about leadership. I have heard some people say that great leaders are born and not made, and different people say that great leaders are made and not born. Our society is quick to label people and classify them according to useful function: “Leader.” “Follower.” “Innovator.” “Team player.” While there’s a certain degree of truth to these, I think if we blindly buy into it, we are seriously crippling ourselves, as well as the people we run with.
A recent post by the inimitable David Sliker sent me on a little excursion — again — into the world of personality tests. I enjoy these things way too much. I don’t really look at them in an, “Oh, maybe I will at last discover myself!” way. I look at them in a, “Hmm, I wonder if this thing is even remotely accurate?” way. I take the test as honestly as possible, secretly hoping it will come back with some bogus answer that I will consequently get to laugh at. Since I feel like I know myself reasonably well (I go back a long way with me), I don’t feel a need for some random form to reintroduce Me and Myself to I.
I tested out, according to the Myers-Briggs test, as an ISFJ. The final page of the test sent me to this site, where the writer had this to say about my personality type…
ISFJs are often unappreciated, at work, home, and play. …Because of all of this, ISFJs are often overworked, and as a result may suffer from psychosomatic illnesses.
Okay, so that quote has no bearing whatsoever on this post, but I found it tremendously funny. The best part is that the first time I took a Myers-Briggs about a year or so ago, I got confused on what my profile was. The one I looked up talked about what a rare gem of a person that type was (INFJ, I think), and how cool they are, and how successful they are, and what great leaders, etc., etc., etc. Then I realized my error and found mine… well, read above. You work really hard, nobody cares, so you get stressed and sick. Somehow that felt like a bit of a step down, and part of me wanted to revisit the test and see if I could wrangle my “S” into an “N”. 😀 But the quote below is the one I wanted to point out…
ISFJs make pleasant and reliable co-workers and exemplary employees, but tend to be harried and uncomfortable in supervisory roles. [emphasis mine]
I have found this to be actually somewhat true. It’s been one doozie of a struggle trying to wrestle with my flesh and heart attitudes in order to simply step up and lead. Because I’m so naturally concerned about not stepping on anyone’s toes, it takes effort to be authoritative. I’m growing in it all the time, and am much better at it than I once was, but it hasn’t come easily.
Which brings us back to the initial point about how we label ourselves and one another. I could, in theory, look at those test results and go, “Huh. Look at that. According to some psychologist/sociologist somebody-or-other, I’m not well suited to lead. Whew! Guess that means I don’t have to do it any more.” Want to know how impressed the Lord is with that?
Yeah. Not so much.
Gifting and calling has WAY less to do with personality than we think it does. Someone who’s naturally dominating is not an inherently better leader than someone who is naturally timid. Both people have to die to themselves and embrace the leadership style of Jesus… foot-washing and voluntary crucifixion. For the more dominant personality, that means learning to reign it in. For the timid one, that means learning to actually step out. Likewise, someone who loves being in front of people is not necessarily better at preaching than a withdrawn introvert will be. Both people have to die to themselves and embrace humility to deliver the Word of the Lord rightly.
Not many mighty… not many wise… not many noble. God doesn’t call us because He’s impressed with how cool we are. He calls us because He wants to glorify Himself through us, even as we’re weak and goofy and we bumble around trying to get things right. Don’t get me wrong; He made our personality, and He loves our personality, and He wants to work with us in accordance with the way we’re wired. But He’s never been one to sit nicely within man-made limits and boundaries, either.
Short story: Just do it. It doesn’t matter what Myers-Briggs has to say when God has given you an assignment. He’s really good at helping us iron out the kinks as we go. It may be a bit of an arduous journey — or, a lot of an arduous journey — but if He called us, He’s not going to leave us hanging. He will give us the grace and strength for the task, and we may discover things about ourselves we would not have known without the job He gave us. Besides, it may be amazing how much someone’s “personality” changes with a good run-in with inner healing… I know I’m personally a way different woman than I was 4 to 5 years ago. And there’s nothing like getting chucked right into the deep end to provoke you to work out your issues with the Lord. 🙂
His leadership is perfect. We can trust Him that His plans for our lives are good, and worth embracing wholeheartedly… No matter what jumble of letters our profile winds up to be. 🙂