One night as I was lying in bed, my 5-year-old nose picked up one of my favorite smells. As I entangled my fingers in my blankie, I realized that my parents had not only sent me to bed much too early but had also decided to make my very favorite treat without me! I was shocked by their audacity. Delicious overtones of golden buttery goodness wafted through my room. Infuriated that my mom and dad would have popcorn without me, I stomped down the stairs, met their eyes, and unwaveringly proclaimed, “I have a nose, you know.”

From birth, children are hardwired to speak up to make sure their needs are met. When a baby belts out her first post-womb cry, she asks, “What about me? Do you see me? Will you help me?” Her wailing likely stops when her call is answered with a blanket or as she receives food. When a preschooler says, “Mom, Mama, MOMMY!” he generally isn’t left without a reply. As a child, I asked “What about me?” a lot. My parents nearly embellished a T-shirt for me with the phrase. Unfortunately, it did not continue to be cute as I aged. My first inclination is always to wonder, “What about me?” And if I’m honest, it takes some serious work to get out of my head and pay attention to the needs of other people.

At a recent conference, Mandy Arioto, CEO of MOPS International, spoke about the “what about me?” phenomenon in the context of leadership. She pointed out that if our minds are consumed with wondering what others are thinking of us, we will be much less effective at seeing and meeting the needs of others.

Since September, I’ve had the opportunity to be a leader in my local MOPS group. I’ve taken on one of my favorite roles so far as the emcee. This means that I get to take hold of a microphone and stand in front of a group of people who have to listen to me because I’m louder than all of them. Well, they don’t have to listen to me, but they usually do. I get to be the person who welcomes the women, shares announcements, and prays before and after meetings. Each time I take that echoey sound box, my extrovert energy goes nuts because of all the people I get to talk to. But inside, my self-centeredness starts welling up. My inner dialogue sounds something like this:

“Did that sound stupid? Ok she’s smiling, that’s probably good… But that mom over there is frowning, so I bet she thinks I’m an idiot. Is my hair acting weird? Can they see my lumpiness through this shirt? Wait, did her eyes just glaze over? I’m talking too long. Can someone stop me from wrecking my train all over the front of this room!?”

In contrast to my own natural tendencies, Jesus led with others in mind. Instead of promoting himself, Jesus built others up. He did not degrade himself or sink into seclusion because of insecurity, but he did serve people in order to point them toward God. Paul presented this model for Christian leadership to the Philippians. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV).

Being in a leadership role can sometimes feel like lying under a microscope. It’s tempting to wonder about the inadequacies others might see in you, and to focus only on that. But if you’re too concerned with the way you look or sound, you might miss the real needs of those you’re leading. You might lose sight of the reason you want to lead in the first place.

It’s freeing for me to remember in those moments that these people need Jesus, not me. I don’t have to look for approval one way or another. I don’t need to worry if someone thinks this or that. I only need to remember that,it’s not about me. It is about him.