We Beg to Differ. You Are Too a Leader
This post is for those of you who aren’t fully convinced you are a leader. Maybe you long to be but you don’t easily see that word “leader” on your list of how you’d describe who you are. Or perhaps you secretly do see yourself as a leader but you believe others around you would contest that claim.
I get it. For some of us, “leader” might be something we try on, but it feels like a scratchy wool sweater worn on a hot day. We want to rip it off and toss it. At the very least, it’s the wrong color. But you are a leader. The question is how will you move into it with confidence and the right fit for who you are?
When you hear “you are a leader,” what are your first thoughts?
Is it easy to step into or uncomfortable?
Recently a new friend contacted me to ask if she could meet with me over several weeks for a school project. Her assignment required that she interview a woman in leadership and also shadow her for a few hours. I responded by describing what my current work and leadership looked like. Surely she needed someone else for her assignment. She said she didn’t think so and asked that I consider it and we could talk again in a few days.
As I clicked off the phone, I recognized remnants of an old struggle. In the past, I never used the “L” word to describe what I do—because weren’t leaders those with visible roles of wide and well-known influence? At the time I lived under that impression, I was a mom doing my mom thing alongside my paid or volunteer roles in ministry or community work. I taught classes, wrote articles for newsletters, met one-on-one with ministry interns. In my mind, none of these warranted leadership designation—just “small” stuff.
But I began to see how every interaction we have, every word we speak has impact potential and that God beautifully shapes the focus and scope of our influence for each season. He might be building toward a role we can’t even imagine now, but more likely we will find ourselves in a variety of leadership roles given where we are in life or the needs before us.
What matters right now is where you are today and how comfortable your leadership sweater is. You will more likely enjoy wearing it if it fits you in a way that is comfortable against your skin and reflects your personality in style and color. So one way to begin is to identify some of that is to take a good look at what you love to do.
Do What You Love
Last year I had conversation with a young man who asked me what I do, which, if we’re quite honest, is usually a question about how are we leading. This guy was curious about my roles at the residential ministry for at-risk youth where my husband and I live and where he was beginning an internship. He knew my husband’s position but wondered about mine.
I told him a little about my various roles over the years, many volunteer, and then some of the other work I’ve done as an author first and then eventually as a life coach. When I said I love what I do. He said, “I haven’t found that yet.”
And then I saw a puzzled expression cross his face when I said, “These things—writing, life coaching, encouraging leaders—are simply more recent expressions of what was always there, who I already was. That’s why I love what I do.”
What do you love to do? Start there and watch for the natural flow of your leadership out of who you are. When you express your unique personality, passions, and gifts through how you lead, you will make a deeper impact than if you tried it any other way.
That may seem obvious, but we easily get distracted by how others lead. We pressure ourselves to be more like them or convince ourselves we can’t lead. While we can certainly learn from others, we’ll serve others better by leading primarily out of who we are and what we love.
Take a moment to think of three things you love to do?
What do these show you about what you might enjoy naturally as a leader?
Treasure What God Treasures
I noticed along the way that leading through doing what I love is easier for me to identify when I also take time to discover what God treasures. He knows me more deeply than anyone can. As I draw near to him, I not only see the uniqueness of how he created me, but I view that in context of his ongoing transformation that flows out of spending time with him. I wrap my arms across the sweater he is weaving with delight in Him and who he is and all that he loves.
Tandem Scriptures that invite me to treasure what God treasures are Philippians 3:10 and John 15:5.
The first passage challenges me to be “more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly” (AMPC).
The second one invites me to spend time in God’s presence, abiding and listening. When I skip first spending time with him learning who he is and what he treasures, I gravitate toward perfection or ill-fitting definitions of leadership. I certainly don’t feel like a leader. In other words, I find myself in that scratchy sweater once again.
But what a different story unfolds when I begin with seeking God and what he treasures and loves. My focus for the day or an interaction feels more on track. I’m more confident in who I am because I have spent time with God and have sought his heart. And even when things don’t go perfectly, I’m more able to lean into that grounding place again and move forward.
What have you noticed that God treasures that you also see
as something you’ve come to value?
How might you incorporate that more in how you lead?
Where are you today in how you view yourself as a leader? Take time to list or journal what you love and see what it shows you about how you are already leading or how you might step into new areas of leadership. Spend time listening to God and discovering what he treasures. Notice what he puts on your heart for you to treasure with him and how he is shaping you as a leader.
I know many of you have your own stories around embracing that word, “leader.” Please feel free to share your journey or your questions. Let’s be a community that encourages one another as we find our way forward in being the leaders we are.