“This is the journey that men make: to find themselves. If they fail to do this, it doesn’t matter much what else they find.” — James Micheneris

Leadership usually looks outward. We talk about vision-casting, influencing others, managing organizations, creating culture, building teams, and so on. And these elements all matter. Leadership generally moves people. However, we would err if we assumed that leadership only functions when two or more people are together.

JourneyThose who have thought deeply about leadership — for centuries — have concluded that some of the most profound leadership experiences we can have (and need to have) emerge from self-leadership in solitude. Consider the deep work of the soul that people like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela did for years before their public roles.

This is the journey that matters most.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th century B.C.) wrote: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” It’s a powerful and confronting statement.

Of course, Micheneris, Ghandi, Mandela, and Lao Tzu did not embrace a Christian worldview. Nevertheless, they intuitively understood that the inner life of the leader matters most. While others see the shell, we must attend to the core. Mastery of systems is secondary to mastery of ourselves.

We can lead others (families, congregations, organizations, and communities) only so far, if we are are not consistently leading ourselves to new places; new heights of authenticity, integrity, courage, self-awareness, and personal growth. Just ask former congressman Anthony Weiner who acknowledged yesterday that he has been a very sick man for a very long time as he was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a 15-year-old.

This aligns entirely with our Christian perspective. The Apostle Paul wrote of the fundamental importance of becoming “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), being “transformed” (Romans 12:2), and “changed” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He consistently reminds us that the Christian journey involves putting off and putting on various traits (Colossians 3:12-16). He had no illusions that leadership was simply a skill to learn.

Apart from Christ we can do nothing, because only He can ultimately change our hearts, renew our spirits, restore our souls, and radically renovate our personal lives.

This is the journey that matters most.

What are you doing today and this week towards becoming the new man or woman, and the more grounded leader? Godly leadership (in any area of our life) springs only from deep wells.