Looking In Before Looking Out – Why Self-Mastery Is Key To Effective Leadership

During the development of the “Leading in a VUCA world” series, we asked Kerryne Krause,Chief Excitement Officerand founder of eyeSlices® Innovation Technologies, to share some insights into the subject of self-mastery, and how to nurture a culture of resilience, integrity and transformational leadership.

eyeSlices® is an award-winning company that has been recognised as a Top Technology 100 company in South Africa. Much of its success can be owed to Kerryne’s perseverance, resourcefulness and determination to overcome a multitude of obstacles in the advanced manufacturing and technology space. Kerryne has bootstrapped, failed forward and is now navigating a multinational brand.

 

If there’s anything I’m learning, it’s that the road to success is neither straight nor smooth. The ride is a lot bumpier and ever bending, with all kinds of harrowing heights and unexpected detours. Sometimes you’re clutching the wheel white-knuckled, other times you wonder if you’re moving forward at all, and at other times there are moments of sheer exhilaration. It’s not easy to be in the driver’s seat of any organisation, because auto pilot just isn’t an option.

But that’s also what makes the ride so thrilling and engaging. As a leader of a multinational organisation, I’m learning to appreciate the blind spots as God’s gifts to us. They keep us humble and highly dependent – firm reminders of Who’s actually behind the wheel. In my capacity as founder and CEO, I’ve been stretched and grown in ways I never could have expected – not just professionally, but within my capacity to love and serve God from a place of restoration and healing. I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that we can only take people so far as we’re willing to go ourselves. If we want to lead others well, we must start by leading ourselves well.

I’m aiming to go the long haul, and to be stronger in ten years’ time than what I am now. I want my energy and enthusiasm for Christ to keep outgrowing my grey hairs. That is why this conversation around self-mastery is so meaningful to me.

Here are some things I have learned about self-mastery, and specifically how it relates to growing your resilience, integrity and ability to keep falling forward as a Christian in today’s business world.

Resilience starts in your thought life

For me resilience begins in believing that you are honestly able to accomplish what seems impossible. When God has called you to something He always equips you for it. His invitation is always a collaboration – you get to do it with Him. It’s as if He’s the elephant crossing the river and we’re the ant hitching a dry ride on his back. But the fact is, we still have to make the climb onto His back. We still need to act, to step up to the moment and believe we have what it takes with God to pull it off.

It helps when there are people who call out the gold and speak big words of destiny over our lives. I had that in a childhood mentor who constantly reminded me, that there’s no such word as ‘can’t’ and that it was removed from the dictionary. That kind of ruthless encouragement helped forge a tenacity and grit in me that came in handy when failure hit hard at age 23. My first business had tanked, and I was at professional rock bottom. But that experience had exposed me to a cutting-edge dermal delivery technology that, if able to manufacture in South Africa, would offer a completely new and unique eye care solution to the market. I spent the best part of ten years trying to take the technology from concept to commercialisation. With no one in-country qualified to help, I became the one stop shop in product development – the scientist, the manufacturer, the engineer, the marketer and the R&D department all in one.

If I had known what the journey would look like, I probably would have never started. But I had come too far and was too stubborn to give up, totally convinced that God would launch this product in His time. And looking back, I’m glad I couldn’t see around all the many bends of that ten-year road, since every trial strengthened me – every setback shaped and informed the woman of resilience I am today.

Let trusted voices call out your blind spots

I’m determined to end my years strong, with a growing impact and influence on the world around me. For that to happen, I need to be ruthlessly honest with myself and willing to scrutinise my ways, with grace. Of course there will be some edifying qualities that our childhood has developed in us – we need to celebrate and harness these strengths. But there are unhealthy habits and mindsets too, of which we need to be willing to recognise and work to eradicate from our lives.

Proverbs 9:9 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” The key to ongoing growth and leadership dexterity is to see criticism as a valuable asset, when it comes from trusted voices in our lives. It’s never easy to be called on our blind spots or weak points – but if we can learn to leverage constructive, critical input from people whom we trust, we can choose to grow our mandate and influence, and lead more effectively.

Over the years, I’ve had to confront my weaknesses and step into unfamiliar spaces that I’m not naturally inclined to fill. I’ve made my share of mistakes when it comes to people management, failing to enact due diligence and allowing the lines between boss and buddy to blur a little too much. I’ve had to learn the hard way that my role as CEO demands a unique set of responsibilities that I alone must carry. But as I keep falling forward and stretching beyond my comfort zones, in accountability and with deep gulps of humility, the more able I am to lead like Christ.

Inspire trust and integrity through your own behaviour

At the end of the day, I am just the steward whom God has entrusted to manage His business. That means my mandate is to represent the heart and character of Jesus, and to treat this business as if ‘on heavenly loan’. Everything we do should honour Him, so virtues like integrity, honesty and excellence are important to us. What we say on the outside, we want to see lived on the inside.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul writes, “It’s true that our freedom allows us to do anything, but that doesn’t mean that everything we do is good for us. I’m free to do as I choose, but I choose to never be enslaved to anything.” Far more than just ticking legal boxes, we want to see people do the right thing because they want to – because an environment of trust, faith and obedience is contagious and attractive. I believe part of our role as Christians in leadership is to model this kind of freedom that Jesus spoke about, where people are inspired (not told) how to behave. Generosity tends to inspire generosity, and trust to inspire trust – when it’s given freely and agenda-free.

If you were to ask, what has been the single most important thing I’ve done to see this business thrive and grow? Without hesitation, it’s been spending time with Him, daily. Learning how to linger in the early morning hours in His presence, digging through scripture for a daily gem, asking for wisdom to lead His people well. Over time God has taught me grace in place of perfectionism and performance, which has helped me to bring peace in place of pressure to the office. He has empowered me to lead from a place of rest, which has proven far more fruitful than leading from a place of my own doubled down efforts.

I am so grateful for the journey (the valleys included) which have made me who I am today. As hard as they have been, I wouldn’t trade these ‘trials of many kinds’ for anything, because this testing of my faith has been producing perseverance. I want to let this perseverance finish its work, as James 1:4 says, so that I may be “mature and complete, not lacking anything”. I am definitely a work in progress, but aware that the journey isn’t done alone. I’m thankful that we can lock arms and learn together – growing in our obedience and impact for the Kingdom.

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Kerryne Krause