The Top 2 Ways Most Leaders Misuse Their Gifting (And How to Fix It)

Leadership / Personal Development //

We’re all gifted at something.

Sometimes in the name of false modesty we pretend we’re not really that gifted. But that’s just not true.

You’re gifted at something:



Coaching people









Your gift is your greatest asset.

And chances are, you’re misusing it.


Misuse #1. False Humility

Does acknowledging your gifting—or developing it—make you egotistical?

Not necessarily.

Many Christian leaders are awkward when it comes to even admitting they might be gifted at something. We slough it off. We pretend we’re not good at it.

And when we do it, we lie. That kind of humility is a false humility.

Get your theology right.

Your gift is the very thing God gave you to help you accomplish what he wants to do through you.

In other words, your gift isn’t just about you. It’s about you learning to serve God and to serve others.

Consequently, embracing your gift isn’t inherently selfish. It can be selfless. You can go on an ego trip. But it’s not inevitable.

Your gift, developed and used well, will help, encourage and even change the lives of others.

Finally—don’t miss this— your gifting says more about the Giver than it does about you.

Your gifting is a reflection of God’s handiwork.

So why wouldn’t you embrace it and use it to serve him and serve others?

Misuse #2: Underdevelopment

Being truly gifted at something can be your principal strength, but it can also become your chief weakness.

How does that happen?

It happens as soon as you begin to neglect your gifting precisely because you’re so naturally good at it.

And as a result, the most heartbreaking way I see leaders misuse their gift is simply through their failure to develop it.

Let’s say your gift is communication.

You might be able to ‘cheat’ by spending 5 hours developing a weekend message, whereas someone else might have to put in 20.

What’s unfair is that sometimes, your message will be better than their message even though you put in 5 hours and they put in 4 times the effort.

The loss in this, of course, is not that people won’t like your communication. They’ll like it. You’re gifted.

The problem is you will never realize your potential.

Regardless of what your gifting consists of, you’re just always going to be a little bit better than the average person in the area of your gifting.

You’ll even receive kudos along the way for being so relational, compelling, clear, inspiring, visionary, strong, merciful, encouraging, helpful or generous.

But you’ll never develop your gifting fully.

You’ll only scratch the surface. If that.

And you’ll never know what you could have been capable of.

Doesn’t matter what your gift is.

It could be spreadsheets, managing people, working with kids, serving the poor, or even the gift of giving—simply spend more time developing it and you will realize the full potential of your gifting.

So what’s the alternative?

Match Your Gifting With Skill

The people who really realize the potential of the gift God has given them are the people who match gifting and skill to become truly great at what God has called them to do.

Here’s how to do that:

1. Spend time on your greatest strength as though you weren’t gifted at it. 

I know that’s a strange way to say it, but here’s what you’ll do if you’re not careful. You’ll cheat. You’ll turn 20 hours of prep into 5 because you can get away with it. So just don’t let yourself do that.

Prepare as hard as you would for something you have to do that you fear failing at. And in the process, you will stop being just good at what you do–you will begin to uncover what you could be excellent at.

2. Focus the majority of your time working on your principal gifting.

Performance reviews don’t help us much when they focus on ‘3 weaknesses you can improve on’.Marcus Buckingham and the strengths movement have helped us see that clearly.

Sure, there are some things you have to do that you’re not good at.

But imagine what would happen if you could spend 80% of your time doing what you’re best at–and what likely produces 80% of your ‘results’ or best moments. Delegate, eliminate and reposition as much as you possibly can to play to your strengths. When you focus on your gift, great things can happen.

So what will you do this week with the gift God has given you?

Anyone Can Get Better

As Malcolm Gladwell has persuasively argued in his book, Outliers, the key to becoming best in your field at something is not simply raw gifting, it’s the combination of gifting and 10,000 hours of practice. (If you haven’t read Gladwell’s work on this, this interview clip is a great 2 minute summary of his thesis.)

The easiest way to become the best you can be at something is to practice it every single week, maybe every day.

I’m still working on this myself.

The reason I can communicate easily is because I’ve been speaking publicly since I was 16 when I walked into a radio station and asked them to hire me (strangely, they did).

But even 30 years into my life as a speaker, I can’t rely on my gifting to take me through my next 20 years. Even now, I am constantly rearranging my calendar constantly to get more study time and more prep time and more thinking time so I can get better.

Similarly with writing. Blogging several times a week has made me a better writer, so when I write my next book, I’ll hopefully be a better writer than I was the last time I wrote. And better writing makes me a better preacher and better speaker.

I’ve still got a long ways to go as a communicator and writer, but I’m trying to set aside increasing amounts of time to develop those gifts further.

You–and the rest of the people you love and lead–might never know what you’re missing if you do.

So go…work on your gifting.

What are you learning about developing a skill set to match your gifting? Why do you not spend more time working in the area of your gifting?





About the Author

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting. Follow Carey on Twitter: