If your happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Now just replace the words happy with smart. “If you’re smart and you know it, stomp your feet.

This post is for all the church leaders who silently stomped their feet.

I want to reflect briefly on the liability of competence. Being smart has its down side. Seriously. Of course it takes you places that others with a less intelligent edge never go.  And most likely you work hard too. It’s a hard combo to beat right – smart and disciplined? But there are unique challenges that come with competence.

#1 Smart leaders aren’t as objective as they think. Ironically, there is a difference between being self-aware and being objective.  Having a good handle on our passions and gifts is great. Driving a stable and growing ministry based on our demonstrated skill set is beautiful. But these strengths can create a false sense that we see our world objectively. The truth is that we don’t and we never will.

#2 Smart leaders don’t as easily acknowledge what they don’t know. Isn’t it a true statement that there is a lot that each person doesn’t know? Yet with growing competence and success in any field, the knowledge that we gain can eclipse the vast possibility of learning not attained. I have seen smart people who stopped their pursuit of learning and I have seen smart people who stayed insatiably curious. Which kind of smart are you?

#3 Smart leaders can succeed with dumb systems. It’s really very interesting that intelligent people not only can succeed with dumb systems, sometimes they unintentionally nurture them. Sometimes they even unconsciously like them. Why? Because it constantly reminds us how smart we are. Competent people can create this weird co-dependency in their organizational world. It’s not necessarily that we have bad motives or a diva-complex, it just feels good to be aware that we have all the answers and that we're constantly needed. Remember how Jim Collins described the level-four leader- “a genius with a thousand helpers.”

#4 Smart leaders may define success too small. Competent people know how to win. And in their ability to call the shots day-by-day, the euphoria of short-term expediency can displace the pursuit of lifetime legacy. In a way, it’s easier to make a living without really acknowledging what we're making with our lives. Are you building a ministry with a vision that will outlive you?

The reflections in this post come from two places. First, from my own struggle with the pride of competency. It's an awful thing! Second,  from the scores of ministry leaders I run into who don't see their own competence as a barrier to going to the next level in their leadership.