Why you should think about your life as an organization to grow your ability to be organized around what matters.

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One of the reasons it's easy to live according to external pressures and expectations instead of internal convictions is this: we can see ourselves as members of other organizations while neglecting to lead our own.

You don't have to be a CEO to be a leader. If you're alive today, you're entrusted to clarify and implement the vision, priorities, direction, action steps, and accountability associated with your life. Yes, your life is an organization, and you've been designed by God to steward it wisely. As the name of the company my mom works for suggests, "Lead Self Lead Others."

Your membership at church is important. Your involvement with your family shouldn't be neglected. Your friendships deserve your time, attention, and care. Your role as an employee is to be done with excellence. The relationships, communities, institutions, and activities you involve yourself with are all parts of life's ecosystem. It's difficult (if not impossible), however, to follow through on any of your commitments well if you never adopt a view of this life as an organization you've been asked to lead into flourishing.

When you don't see your life as an organization, you never fully take on the agency to steer the ship. You submit to an environment where you're living passively and going where the tide and wind take you. You might only occasionally find yourself in a storm or near rocks, but you miss out on the opportunity to direct the vessel from a place of core conviction.

What kind of organization are you leading?

Great organizations spend enormous amounts of time, strategic thinking, and effort to build defined core values, a healthy culture, a plan for the future, and an allocation of resources toward prioritized objectives. They reflect on what's working, what's not working, what should be done, how things should be done, and why they should be done. They take on a posture of service toward stakeholders, integrity in all interactions, and a commitment to excellence. 

Poor organizations do very little of this. They chase outcomes without thinking through how they'll actually get there. The culture is often sour, engagement is low, integrity is admired but optional, and stakeholders can be viewed as necessary evils.

One of the key determining factors between whether an organization is great or poor is the quality of its leadership. When you look at your own life as an organization, what do you see?

Servant leader, not dictator

Leading your life doesn't mean you're in ultimate control of your life. You're still accountable to the owner. Your life's organization is owned by God, and He's invited you to walk in obedience to Him. 

Dictators don't see themselves as under authority. They view themselves as the authority. The organization God is asking you to lead requires the posture of service. You aren't, and shouldn't try to be, a dictator. Instead, your job description asks you to be humble, strong, able to pull the organization in the right direction, and willing to wash the dishes in the break room sink.

The marketing department doesn't have to lie

It's always refreshing when you have an experience with an organization that's as excellent as their well-designed website. 

As you lead your life's organization, stakeholders (friends, family, colleagues, etc.) shouldn't be duped by your brochure. The public relations team should simply be tasked with communicating the truth. The designers should be able to craft an image of what actually exists in your heart. What's on your billboard should be dictated by what's in your soul.

It's tempting to flip the order and try and make the external picture come first. Spending all your budget on advertisements but none on product leads to disaster and is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." Your heart--the core of your motivations, convictions, attitude, and actions--necessitates the most resource allocation. 

Invest most in "programs"

In nonprofit organizations, many donors look at how dollars are spent through the lens of the programs percentage. This metric can be flawed (see here and here), but the inquiry is used to see how much of donor dollars are going to the output vs. the input. In most healthy organizations, the majority of funding is spent on programs while the minority is invested in marketing/fundraising and administration. 

When you think about your own life in these terms, how much energy, money, time, and attention are being spent on the inputs, and how much are being spent on the outputs? Are you spending your "marketing/fundraising" and "administration" resources on things that actually allow you to do more good in the world? Does your life's "programs" line item return a satisfactory percentage of your allocation?

Practically, here are a few questions you can ask yourself right now to help calibrate your life's organization in this area:

  • Is the way I'm spending my time today indicative of what I hope will be the result of my life?

  • Is the way I'm using money this week helping me better glorify God, serve others, and enjoy God's gifts with a content heart?

  • Is the way I'm using my talents in this season ultimately demonstrating Christ's excellence in the domains I inhabit?

You are a person. I am a person. As people, we won't ever achieve perfection. Every time we revisit these questions, we'll find dark spots and bright spots in the answers we truthfully share. This is true of organizations, and it's true of our hearts. Understanding the picture allows us to know ways to grow, and it's better to see clearly than to perceive what isn't actually there.

Get out of the weeds

The best organizations lift their heads up and look around on a regular basis. This gives members of these organizations opportunities to take the collective and individual pulse. 

Is the ship headed where we want it to go? Are we executing what we claim are our core values? Are the products and services we're making exemplifying excellence? What threats do we face to doing what we need to do? 

These questions rattle around in great leaders' minds. They aren't afraid to acknowledge and confront the challenges. They do what needs to be done. 

Pick your head up from your life and look around. If you are an organization, do you like the organization you're leading?

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash