Tag Archive: authenticity

Managing Our Image: Our ‘Deflate-Gate’

©pzphotos/ Dollar Photo Club

What do you manipulate to gain an edge? It’s doubtful that you instruct an employee to deflate a football – and the things we do are likely not even clearly cheating. But, there are things we do or don’t do to impact people’s perceptions of us; Author and Pastor John Ortberg calls this image management.

If you don’t follow the NFL, last year’s Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady has been accused and punished by the NFL for directing that his footballs be deflated to an air pressure that makes them easier to throw. I won’t use this blog to weigh in on the controversy or make judgments on Brady, but “Deflate-Gate” has caused me to consider what we as church leaders do in order to appear better than we are.

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Ministers and Image Management

How important is it to be perceived well by church members even it means you’re slightly inauthentic? Can you try to impress others and not sin? Are you simply creating a personal brand?

I’ve written before about how managing your image with ministry peers and how it leads to church leader jealousy syndrome, but today I’m focused on the image management that occurs for the perception of church members.

Are you guilty of any of these?

  • You use social media to announce how much work you’re completing (ironic, I know)
  • When you leave the office you pack up half your office so everyone seeing you leave assumes, you must work from home
  • On Sundays, you leave your tithe envelope hanging out of your pocket so everyone sees
  • You use any opportunity available to discuss the depth of your relationship with Jesus
  • You use big words and slightly fabricated stories to impress your church’s key influencers

Mindful of Image vs. Management of Image

I first became aware of the term “image management” in John Ortberg’s book Everyone’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them.” Ortberg says this about himself and image management:

“There are many situations in which I find myself being more measured or calculating than I  wish I were; situations where I work as hard—and subtly—as I can to try to manage what the other person is thinking of me; situations in which I emphasize opinions I think they might agree with, or tell stories that make me sound smarter or stronger or more successful than I really am.”

As is true with being a human and Christian, it’s important to be mindful of your image. However, a slippery, and probably sinful slope, is managing your image. Here are some distinctions for ministers:

Ministers Mindful of their image…

  • Work hard, and are noticed through their output
  • Dress/present themselves in a way that’s appropriate for the environment they’re ministering in
  • Doesn’t share every opinion that crosses their frontal lobe (amygdala hijack). Yet, they say what needs to be said, even if it doesn’t win them friends
  • Spends time with important leaders, but focuses provides ministry to all who require it

Ministers who are managing their image…

  • Work hard, but are noticed through their own self-promotion
  • Dress with the intent of impressing others
  • Never says the hard things because they’re afraid of people not liking them
  • Focuses their conversations and ministry to those in the church who are important and/or can provide something in return

Like most professions, I believe there can be an appropriate and righteous amount of image management for ministers (what I’m referring to as being “mindful of your image”). Consistent management of your image up can be very inauthentic and sinful. And at some point, if you are faking who you are–it will be found out by those you’re minister to. If you’re allowing church members to define your image, it’ll never work out. That job is taken, and provided to us already through Christ and the Bible.

I’m guilty of image management. It’s a daily effort to stay away from this sin. Despite my prescriptive suggestions in this post, what I’ve found most helpful is to simply remind myself whose image I’m created in.

Practical takeaway: Ask a friend, whom you can trust to tell you the truth, to say whether or not you appear to be managing your image among church members rather than simply being mindful of it.




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The Art of Self-deprecation in Leadership

When you’re 5’7”, bald, wear glasses, failed Algebra twice and had your greatest athletic moments competing against invisible competitors in your own backyard, it is easy to self-deprecate. In fact, it’s intuitive.

Like most everyone, I have concern for my image. But when I have foregone my hopes of people seeing me as similar to my childhood heroes (Nick Barkley, The Big Valley, Paunch, CHiPs, and Maverick, Top Gun), I have successfully enabled people to connect with me quicker.

Someone who doesn’t hide their inadequacies – whether they are physical, mental, or spiritual – becomes more approachable to others. You can’t lead if people won’t approach you.

When your vocational position gives you authority over people, there is often an intimidation factor that comes with it (even if you’re 5’7”). Self-deprecation typically makes you less threatening. Your position gives you power; your personality should not.

I spoke once to a group about the idea of self-deprecation and praising its advantages, and I unintentionally made the comment that my pastor and I often take the opportunity to “self-defecate when together.” Awkward! See, I told you self-deprecation comes very naturally to me.

Learn to take yourself less seriously. Learn to not speak about your church’s size or your recent accomplishments.

Others valuing your leadership and strengths take time and it is rarely done with making comments about yourself and bragging. The appropriate amount of self-deprecation can go a long way in allowing people to connect with you, and enabling you to lead them as they learn your strengths, over time.

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