The Power of Perspective in Leadership
[Excerpted from Chapter 02 of my new book, The Top 10 Leadership Conversations in the Bible. You can read the entire book for free at BibleCenteredLeadership.com.]
“The difference between leaders and followers is perspective. The difference between leaders and effective leaders is better perspective.” Dr. J. Robert Clinton
Perspective is to life what a scale is to a map. It helps us see clearly where we are in relation to where we’ve been and where we want to go. As Jesus-following leaders, we gain better perspective as we increasingly see and understand the circumstances of life from God’s vantage point. Jesus spoke to the importance of perspective when he said: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34). But for leaders, perspective is more than important. It’s crucial.
The story of the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan is a case study in the power of perspective in leadership. At the Lord’s command, Moses identified one leader from each of the ancestral tribes to scout out the promised land of Canaan. The climactic statement in the report of the spies is one of the most interesting mash-ups of hyperbole and metaphor imaginable: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:33).
Perspective is a leadership differentiator. Leaders see what followers don’t. The most effective leaders see what other leaders don’t. Like Joshua and Caleb, we need better perspective. We grow in leadership effectiveness the more we learn to interpret life from God’s vantage point, which gives us a better perspective.
Better Perspective on Ourselves
Self-awareness is the primary gateway into effective self-leadership. Each of us must understand ourselves well to lead ourselves well. A simple definition of self-awareness includes two facets: first, being honest with yourself about yourself and second, being honest about yourself with others.
As Jesus-following leaders, we can be tempted to view self-awareness as an attempt to marry psychology and self-help with spiritual leadership. Not so. Every person’s journey of faith begins with an epiphany of self-awareness directed by the Holy Spirit. It starts with being honest with yourself about yourself—by admitting you are a sinner and incapable of changing on your own. Next comes being honest about yourself with others, especially God—by affirming how much you need Jesus as Savior.
Spiritual self-awareness begins with salvation but doesn’t end there. As self-aware leaders, we gain better perspective because we understand our strengths and gaps. We know who God made us to be, and how to leverage our strengths, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to do the good works God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
As we become highly self-aware, we discover new levels of confidence and clarity about how God has equipped us to add value to other individuals and contribute to a team. We come to understand where we should give priority to growth and how we are vulnerable to derailing our own leadership.
The ten spies who spread a bad report among the Israelites did not have good perspective on themselves. Otherwise they never would have viewed themselves as grasshoppers. Better leadership perspective requires seeing ourselves more and more in line with how God sees us.
Overcoming Grasshopper Moments
In the book of Judges, Gideon experiences a grasshopper moment. An angel of the LORD approached him with a challenge to lead his people in battle against the Midianites. This story presents a classic contrast of perspectives.
Listen to Gideon’s perspective on himself: “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judg. 6:15).
His words expose an important lesson. We can lose perspective when we compare ourselves with others. Gideon compared his clan to other clans, and himself to others in his family. Every leader understands this temptation. We compare who we are, and the role God has given us, with other leaders.
Sometimes we compare ourselves with people we believe have less capacity and status, because we want to feel more important. Other times we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with leaders who have bigger platforms for influence, and we end up feeding our insecurities. Comparison is a road with deep ditches on both sides. The Devil doesn’t really care which ditch you fall into.
In contrast, the angel of the LORD affirms God’s perspective on Gideon, saying, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judg. 6:12). The term mighty warrior could literally be translated mighty force. The Hebrew meaning can indicate a person as a mighty force because of great wealth, a strong army, or depth of character. If the first part of Judges 6:12 is true—“The LORD is with you”—then the last part of the verse is also true—“you are a mighty force”—regardless of whether you need resources, protection, or the strength of character to do what is right.
The validation of your leadership, like Gideon’s, has nothing to do with how you compare to others. It has everything to do with a better perspective on yourself, especially this assurance: The Lord is with you as you pursue what he has called you to do. Joshua and Caleb found confidence to take the promised land because they believed, “the LORD is with us” (Num. 14:9).
Learn more about the power of perspective in leadership in The Top 10 Leadership Conversations in the Bible. You can read the entire book for free at BibleCenteredLeadership.com.
 This definition of self-awareness is modified from Daniel Goleman’s writing about emotional intelligence.
 I have developed a self-leadership resource called the Identity Profile Self-Awareness Tool (IPSAT), which is being used by individuals, as well as in churches, organizations and universities, to help people understand the unique combination of personality, strengths, skills, spiritual gifts, and passions. For more information visit myIPSAT.com.