It happened again a few weeks ago. A Christian leader I follow on Twitter and whom I respect a lot, tweeted something quite unfriendly that was obviously meant as a direct message. He deleted it about a minute later, but the damage had been done already, at least with me. He wasn’t who I thought he was, because otherwise he would have never written something so ugly.
Having one consistent identity has always been a challenge for leaders. Everyone knows the stories of leaders who were easygoing and loved outside, but a complete nightmare to their families.
With the rise of social media, fining and maintaining that one identity has become even more of a challenge. Authentic leadership requires us to be the same person at home, at work, in the church and online. Including those instances where we think nobody is watching us. But how many of us really have one identity?
In a youth work conference I attended two years ago, one of the speakers explained how young people often maintain several identities both online and in real life. They’re one person on Tumblr, another on Twitter, one type with their girlfriends and another with their parents. In every area, they feel they can show certain parts, but have to hide others.
I think for many leaders it’s the same. If I were to summarize your social media posts and compare them to who you are at home or in the church, would I be able to see one consistent identity? Or would there be discrepancies, like the respected Christian leader who wasn’t so nice when he thought no one was watching?
The easiest approach of course would be for me to give you a list of things you have to be careful with when posting online. Like realizing that nothing is ever private on the Internet, meaning you have to write and post everything as if anyone can read it. But that would be missing the point.
The point isn’t to be careful what you post or to make certain you project a certain image. The point is that you have to BE the same everywhere, that it’s a true identity and not just something you carefully construct.
Last week we had two 18-year old guys stay with us for a week. My husband and I have been in youth ministry for a long time and we love having teens over. But each and every time, it’s also a reality check. Because they see everything we do, hear everything we say and they’ll know when we’re faking it.
My teens, they know me in person, they know me from Facebook and Twitter and they know me from church. If I don’t walk the talk, if my identity at home or on social media differs from what I pour into them in the youth ministry, they’ll know and it will lessen my impact.
The one identity of a leader
As leaders, we need to have one consistent identity and it needs to be out in the open, in the light. Those things we do in secret, those urges or wants that we try to keep hidden from anyone else, they will become our downfall. If they’re not sin already, they will be and they will bring us down.
If we want our leadership to be authentic and effective, we need to have one identity, even when we think no one is watching. Because someone always is.
Question: Are you the same everywhere or do you see different identities within you? Please share your answers in the comment section below.
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