Mastering Deception

blog Jan 11, 2024

By Jason Hanash

One of the most insidious challenges of leadership is in the realm of our thoughts and beliefs: the lies that we believe. Lies are tools of strongholds that infiltrate the minds of leaders, distorting the truth and undermining their potential. Strongholds are mental or spiritual fortresses that are built upon false beliefs, misconceptions and deceptions. They form a barrier between us and the truth, not only preventing us from embracing our full potential, but undermining our effectiveness in leadership. These strongholds can manifest in a variety of ways, such as self-doubt, fear of failure or an inflated sense of self-importance. 

For Christian leaders, the battle against these strongholds is not merely a psychological one, but also a spiritual one. The Apostle Paul urges believers to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are called to align our thoughts with the truth found in God’s Word and to demolish every falsehood that threatens to hinder our leadership journey. By recognizing and dismantling these lies that leaders believe, we can forge a path toward authenticity and effectiveness wherever God has us.  

Lie #1: “I am what I do”—embracing true identity as a leader.  

It is easy to fall into the trap of defining ourselves solely by our accomplishments, achievements and positions. We can become so consumed by the never-ending cycle of doing that we forget the importance of simply being. We must step away from the relentless pursuit of success and remember the fundamental truth that we are human beings, not human doings. Our core identity is as individuals created in the image of God. Our true worth and identity are found in our relationship with God and in understanding that we are loved and valued by Him, irrespective of our achievements. Scripture reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (see Psalm 139:14) and that our true identity lies in being children of God (see 1 John 3:1). Our purpose and significance go far beyond our roles and responsibilities. 

The answer to breaking free from the bondage of equating our self-worth with what we do lies in a shift of perspective and a deepening of our understanding of true identity in Christ. 

First, we must consciously remind ourselves that our value as leaders is not contingent upon our performance or the outcomes we achieve. We are not defined by our successes or failures but by our identity as beloved children of God. 

Second, it’s crucial to remember that our worth is intrinsic, not comparative. Comparing ourselves to others’ achievements or measuring our self-worth against societal standards is a sure path to disappointment and insecurity. Comparison is the thief of joy. Instead, let us embrace our unique gifts, talents and calling, recognizing that we have been created for a specific purpose in God’s grand design. 

Finally, we must prioritize self-care and self-reflection. Taking the time to nurture our emotional and spiritual well-being helps us cultivate a healthy sense of self apart from our roles and responsibilities. By engaging in the disciplines of prayer, meditation and journaling, we gain a deeper understanding of who we are in Christ, enabling us to lead from a place of authenticity and grace. 

Lie #2: “Failure is not an option”—embracing failure as a path to growth.  

The fear of failure can loom large, often leading us to believe that any misstep or setback is unacceptable. However, this mindset is not only unrealistic but also detrimental to our personal and professional development. It is essential to recognize that failure is not the end but rather a stepping stone on the path to growth and success. 

What if you embraced failure as a means of learning and progress? Failure is not fatal; rather, it is a necessary part of the journey toward excellence. John Maxwell advocates that leaders should actually strive to fail early, fail often but fail forward. This approach acknowledges that failure is an inevitable part of any worthwhile pursuit. Instead of avoiding failure at all costs, we should learn from our mistakes, adjust our course and move forward with renewed wisdom and resilience. 

We can draw inspiration from biblical examples of individuals who faced failures and setbacks on their journeys toward fulfilling God’s purposes. Think of Peter, who denied Jesus three times but was later restored by Jesus and became a pivotal figure in the early church. Or consider Moses, who initially doubted his abilities but grew into one of the most renowned leaders in all of Scripture. 

To break free from the lie that failure is not an option, we must internalize a few key principles. 

First, understand that failure is an event, not a label that defines us. Just because we encounter failures or make mistakes does not mean that we are failures as individuals. Instead, failure presents an opportunity for growth and course correction. 

Second, we must shift our perspective and see failure as a teacher, not an enemy. Each failure brings valuable lessons and insights that can propel us forward. By embracing failure as an integral part of our leadership journey, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and unconventional approaches that have the potential to lead to significant breakthroughs. 

Finally, it is essential to cultivate a growth mindset. Rather than dwelling on past failures, we should focus on learning from them and using that knowledge to continually improve. As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Lie #3: “Leadership is lonely”—building authentic community.  

One of the prevailing myths about leadership is that it is a lonely endeavor, isolated from the rest of the team or organization. This lie perpetuates a sense of separation and disconnect, causing leaders to believe they must shoulder the burdens and challenges on their own. However, the truth is that leadership thrives in the presence of authentic community and strong relationships. By debunking the notion of isolation, leaders can foster a sense of belonging and create authentic connections that enhance their leadership effectiveness. 

Authentic community is built upon trust, transparency and genuine relationships. It involves fostering an environment where team members feel valued, supported and connected to each other. Creating such a community requires intentional effort from leaders who must actively cultivate relationships within their teams. 

To build authentic community, leaders can start by setting the example themselves. This involves being vulnerable, open to feedback and actively engaging with team members. By showing humility and acknowledging their own limitations, leaders create a safe and inclusive space for others to do the same. 

Effective leaders prioritize communication and actively listen to their team members. They seek to understand their perspectives, needs and aspirations, creating a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect. Regular team meetings, one-on-one conversations and team-building activities can contribute to fostering a sense of community. 

Leaders must also demonstrate empathy and compassion, showing genuine concern for their team members’ well-being. By being attentive to their personal and professional needs, leaders can establish trust and build authentic connections. This includes acknowledging and supporting individuals’ work-life balance, professional growth and overall job satisfaction. 

Another vital aspect of building authentic community is encouraging collaboration and cultivating a sense of collective purpose. When team members feel part of something bigger than themselves and see how their individual contributions align with the team’s goals, a strong sense of community is fostered. Leaders can facilitate this by creating a shared vision, establishing clear goals and recognizing the accomplishments and efforts of the entire team. 

Leadership expert Simon Sinek emphasizes the importance of creating a “circle of safety” to foster strong bonds within teams. This circle of safety is built on mutual trust and support, allowing individuals to feel secure and empowered to take risks share ideas, and contribute their best work. 

The lie that “leadership is lonely” can be debunked by intentionally building authentic community. By fostering trust, transparency and genuine relationships, leaders can create an environment in which team members feel valued, supported and connected. Through effective communication, empathy, collaboration and a shared purpose, leaders can transform the sense of isolation into a strong sense of community, leading to enhanced leadership effectiveness and overall team success. 

Lie #4: “I don’t have the right people on my team”—developing the right people.  

Many leaders believe that their success or failure depends on having the right people on their team. While having talented, motivated individuals is undoubtedly valuable, this assumption overlooks the critical role that leadership plays in developing the right people. Rather than focusing solely on recruiting top talent, leaders must adopt a mindset of developing and empowering their team members to reach their full potential. 

It’s essential that leaders invest in the development of team members. True leadership is about developing people. You cannot be a great leader if you are not committed to developing others. Developing your team members is the key to creating a culture of excellence and fostering long-term success.  

Collins, in his book Good to Great, emphasizes the significance of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. However, he also emphasizes the importance of developing those individuals through continual learning, growth and challenge. 

This mindset shift requires leaders to emphasize development and growth over immediate results. It involves creating a culture of coaching and mentorship that supports team members’ ongoing learning and development. Leaders must identify each individual’s unique talents, invest in their growth, and provide ongoing feedback that challenges and encourages them to continually improve. 

To shift the mindset from “I don’t have the people on my team” to “developing the right people,” leaders need to embrace several principles.  

First, they must adopt a growth mindset and cultivate a culture of ongoing learning and development. They must recognize that their team members’ potential is not fixed and invest in their growth to ensure long-term success. 

Second, leaders must create a framework for coaching and feedback that guides each individual’s development and aligns their unique gifts and passions with the team’s needs. Such a framework requires individualized attention, ongoing support and regular opportunities for growth and challenge. 

Lie #5: “I’m the only one who can do this”—embracing delegation and empowerment. 

One of the common traps leaders fall into is the belief that they are the only ones capable of fulfilling certain tasks or responsibilities. This mindset hinders growth, limits the potential of the team, and creates unnecessary bottlenecks in organizational effectiveness. To overcome this lie, leaders must learn the art of delegation and empowerment, creating a culture and system that allows others to contribute and excel. 

Differentiating between delegation and empowerment is crucial in debunking this lie. Delegation involves assigning specific tasks or responsibilities to others, while empowerment goes beyond delegation by giving individuals the authority, flexibility, and trust to make decisions and take ownership of their work. 

Leaders must recognize that they cannot effectively lead and accomplish everything on their own. In fact, by attempting to do so, they stifle the growth and development of their team members. It is important to realize that there are talented individuals within the team who possess the skills and capabilities to take on various tasks and responsibilities. 

Creating a culture of delegation and empowerment requires several key elements.  

First, leaders must develop trust in their team members. This involves giving them opportunities to showcase their abilities, providing clear expectations, and offering support and guidance when needed. Leaders should focus on building relationships and fostering open communication channels, demonstrating that they believe in and value their team's capabilities. 

Second, leaders must develop a system that allows for effective delegation and empowerment. This includes clearly defining roles and responsibilities, providing the necessary resources and training and establishing accountability mechanisms. By setting clear expectations and providing the needed support, leaders can ensure that individuals have the tools and knowledge to succeed in their delegated tasks. 

Finally, leaders need to resist the urge to micromanage and instead allow individuals the freedom to make their own decisions. This not only empowers team members but also creates a sense of ownership and accountability. Leaders should act as a guiding force, offering support and guidance when needed but allowing space for creativity and innovation to flourish. 


Get Jason Hanash's book, Freedom, here.

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