A brief excerpt from my latest book, 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them.
Thomas Kelly, a twentieth-century Quaker, died the day a company discussed publishing his essays. Fortunately a friend followed through and those essays were compiled into A Testament of Devotion. Kelly succinctly captures why we need to heed Jesus’ offer: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
X-Factor: A variable in a situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.
X-Factor: a tv show by Simon Cowell that didn’t do so well.
The term X-factor usually carries a positive mystique, a quality not readily identified except by its impact. We’ll say…
The singer has the X-factor that makes her great.
The business leader has the X-factor that makes her successful.
The pastor has the X-factor that makes him engaging.
But what about the brain’s X-factor? Is it a good quality?
Neuroscience has recently discovered important concepts that can enhance a leader’s leadership impact. Essentially our brain uses two processing systems through which we lead, interact with people, and control our emotional and behavioral responses.
Daniel Kahneman, a Noble prize winner, explains these systems in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow as system 1 and system 2. Matthew Lieberman, a professor at UCLA describes the systems as reflexive and reflective. These two words capture the essence of each process.
reflexive, the X-system (the X-factor): that part of our brain that if overstimulated reacts and acts impulsively. It’s spontaneous and acts automatically.
reflective, the C-system: that part of our brain that acts with intention and thinks before acting. It regulates emotionally reactivity.
In my 30 years in ministry I’ve been taught and have taught that practicing various spiritual disciplines will yield a controlled, Spirit-filled life. But how many of us leaders, although we practice those disciplines, can react with anger to a staff person, become defensive at a lay leader’s comment, or simply act like a jerk in the heat of the moment?
We’re all guilty. I know I am. So what’s missing?
Last week Augusta, Georgia hosted one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments, The Masters. Tiger Woods, a four-time winner and arguable today’s most talented golfer made the cut. He entered the tournament hoping for a strong showing. Unfortunately he finished tied for 40th.
Neuroscience gives us clues not only to Tiger’s downward spiral that began when his personal foibles became public in 2009, but to how leaders lose their effectiveness when they don’t lead themselves well.
Leaders need at least three components to self-lead: competency, composure, and concentration. These three brain structures influence these qualities.