As leaders ambition is often a trait we come by naturally. The world praises us for getting the job done or for creating jobs or for climbing the success ladder.  But is this what God calls us to? 

Balancing Ambition with Surrender [Leadership Traits Series]

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In this episode of the leadership traits series, Holly and I are exploring the concept of what we are calling ‘surrendered ambition’ and how we can develop this as leaders.


How to Balance Ambition and Surrender:

Why are we talking about surrendered ambition?

  • There’s a tension between our internal ambition for the big goals and dreams we have and the command of God to build His kingdom and not our own.
  • We know that building God’s kingdom doesn’t look the same way for each person. We are all built with specific gifts and talents, and what surrender looks like may be different for each person.
  • We’ve waffled between working hard to achieve a dream and then the next day turning it all over to God and saying “ok you can send me to Africa if you want”.  
  • If God calls me to do something “small”, I can feel like that isn’t something I want to do because it’s not “significant” enough.
  • I have found myself frustrated if other people aren’t as motivated or ambitious as I am. 


What is ambition?

  • Ambition is a strong desire to achieve something, generally requiring hard work and determination.
  • This is a trait God crafts us with; some perhaps more than others but we don’t believe ambition in and of itself is sinful. It more has to do with WHAT we are wanting to achieve–our motivations.


The tension between being ambitious and driven versus building God’s kingdom

  • As leaders we need to have ambition but we also need to be fully surrendered to God.
  • Leaders need to have motivation; they also set the pace and the vision.
  • But we also need to be willing to be re-directed and surrendered to where God is leading.
  • We need to remain surrendered to God’s will and hold things with an open hand.


Why is this idea of surrendered ambition important?

Holly shared that her pastor preached a relevant sermon recently (message starts at the 40 minute mark). Some of the passages we share will be from this sermon (though not all).

  • 1 John 2:15-17 NIV
    • Lust of the Flesh: internal cravings and addictions 
    • Lust of the Eyes: external desires, envy, and materialism 
    • Pride of Life: pursuit for status, position, and recognition 
    • Simplicity: An inward contentment that leads to outward conviction. 
    • God does not want us guilty, but he does want us responsible.
  • Matthew 16:26 NIV
  • Luke 16:13 NIV
  • Having money is NOT a sin; being in a position of status or power is not a sin. We are talking about the PURSUIT of money or the addiction of having wealth and status.


How to develop the trait of surrendered ambition

  • Reflect on your motivations 
    • Ask yourself: If this thing (money, role, business, status, possession) got wiped away from my life tomorrow would I be devastated? Would I be at a loss of hope? 
    • Consistently ask God to show you your heart and be willing to confess wrong motives when they are there.
  • Practice generosity
    • Matthew 10:8 NIV
    • Most of us could get rid of half our possessions without any serious sacrifice. If more people would live simply, other people would simply live.
    • Generosity is not just about money.
  • Pursue a greater legacy instead of a greater lifestyle
    • Luke 12:22-23 ESV
    • Luke 12:31 NIV 


Action Step:

Reflect on the motivations behind your ambition and ask God to show you if you need to surrender or if you need to take more action. Share with us in the Purposeful Leadership FB group!


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