July 18, 2023
Timothy was a young man, eager to save the world as he joined his mentor, Paul. But along the way he learned that leadership is not all about action. Leadership certainly involves the actions leaders take as well as the heart and motives underneath the actions. But leadership also includes the mind, thinking, pondering, and reflecting. These are things that Timothy would learn on his own journey. Consider these instructions Paul gave Timothy.
Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this (2 Timothy 2:7, NIV).
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV)
Paul calls Timothy to “reflect” and to “keep your head.” Timothy needed to learn how to think as a leader, spending time learning the importance of reflection and thought. His example teaches serving leaders to understand the power and practice of reflection.
Reflection releases insight.
Paul tells Timothy that reflection will produce insight. Paul could have simply told Timothy the insight, but he wanted Timothy to develop the capacity to reflect and gain his own insight! The muscle of reflection needed to be exercised for Timothy to gain insight. Reflection takes a leader out of the immediate tasks and allows thought on the bigger picture. Reflection allows a leader to gain insight that helps them lead. This insight may be a needed change of direction or a clearer focus on current priorities. It may be a greater self-awareness as the leader reflects on their own leadership actions and how their leadership impacts others. The insight might be a new thought that helps solve a perplexing challenge. The insights gained ultimately benefit the entire organization and in this regard reflection is one of the greatest gifts a leader can give to those they lead.
Many leaders lead with little insight! Others seek insight from many places, perhaps good sources, but which are still shortcuts to the discipline of reflection. But serving leaders gain insight as they take time to step away and reflect. They don’t think they’re leading unless they’re thinking!
Reflection results in stability.
Paul calls Timothy to “keep your head in all situations.” He is urging Timothy to be a stable leader one who would not rush in many directions at the same time or change course at the slightest obstacle. He needed to keep his head straight! Reflection brings stability to leadership. Leaders who don’t stop to reflect often change course erratically with little thought to how it impacts those they are leading. They learn that leading only with action often produces a reaction! But serving leaders stop and reflect, then lead from a position of calmness and stability.
Reflection requires time.
Reflection has great benefits but is a discipline that requires time. Reflection requires a pause, stepping back from normal activities and thinking deeply and pondering. Reflection cannot be rushed or squeezed into the margins of our day. This is a challenge for leaders with the many demands on their time. There are pressing tasks that need to be done, objectives that must be met, people to see and places to go! In this environment it is hard to stop and reflect. It may seem to be a waste of time. So, the discipline of reflection, like all leadership disciplines, must be intentional and planned in the calendar.
Many leaders don’t take time to stop working to think and reflect. They press on with the work they are doing with no time to reflect on the work. But serving leaders understand that the benefits of reflection outweigh the costs and they build time for reflection in their leadership rhythms.
For further reflection and discussion:
- How can I develop the discipline of reflection in my own life? Do I have time in my daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual rhythms to pause and reflect? How can I improve my reflection time?
- Reflect on those you lead. What can I do to encourage them to develop their own ability to reflect? Do I invite them to reflect for insight as Paul did to Timothy, or do I too quickly share my own insight with them? How would they answer this question?
- Would others describe my leadership as “stable” or “inconsistent” and what impact does that have on my leadership?
- In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 4:2,15–16, 2 Timothy 1:13-14. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy learned to reflect on the instructions Paul gave him?
(In this series we are looking at the life of Timothy. If you haven’t already, this is a great time to read through the two books in the Bible with his name, written to him by Paul. As you read, reflect on what Timothy did to grow as a leader and how his actions apply to your own growth.)
Until next time, yours on the journey,
In the next issue, we’ll look at things Timothy learned to leave behind.