WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT LEADERSHIP?
The biggest surprises in leadership for me have developed from six key concepts:
1. There is a significant difference between managing and leading. Managing is functional, but leading is relational.
2. The higher you go in leadership, the more of a servant you should become. You have to approach your position and people with the perspective that you are there to serve them and your stakeholders.
3. Effective delegation can release you from being involved in every bit of minutia.
4. There are a lot of proverbial “balls” in the air to juggle. Successful leaders can identify and prioritize which ones are crystal and which are rubber, but great leaders catch the crystal and let rubber ones bounce.
5. There is a difference between a reaction and a response to a circumstance or setting. Those around you will always be watching, and as leaders we set the tone for how they will also operate.
6. A little bit of a toxic environment can be hugely corrosive to any culture.
WHAT IS ONE CHARACTERISTIC YOU BELIEVE EVERY LEADER SHOULD POSSESS?
Trustworthiness. It is foundational to everything about influence, what it causes and what it ultimately achieves. We see evidence of it permeating the life of Christ. It was the basis of His relationship with the Father, what drove Him to complete His mission on this earth and why He was able to empower an unlikely group of followers to activate the rest of God’s plan to redeem the whosoevers of this world.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING FEMALE LEADERS TODAY?
We acknowledge there are differences between men and women in leadership and yet we want to be treated the same. Women leaders do not lead exactly like men. Not better. Not worse. But differently. It is because of these differences that we can contribute in meaningful and significant ways as leaders in social organizations. We want to encourage women to lead like women; to bring our distinctive women’s leadership skills to the fore and discourage the notion that women must lead like men to be successful.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU KNEW ABOUT VIEWING YOURSELF AS A LEADER 10 YEARS AGO?
If there is time, take 90 days to understand the context of the position you are stepping into. Affirm the culture and the successes of the past by participating in the existing systems and processes. This makes change easier to accept for people who have been there longer than you. It shows that you respect and honor the work of those who have gone before you—work that the people you are leading are probably invested in. The time you put into this up front will save you loads of wasted energy and conflict in the long run.
HOW DID YOU COME TO THINK OF YOURSELF AS A LEADER? DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE ALREADY LEADING?
The realization that I was leading came to me out of the blue. For years I tried to avoid the judgment and responsibility that I knew would follow a woman in church leadership by minimizing my involvement. I imagined that by avoiding the assignment of an official title such as pastor, elder, or deacon, I could fly under the radar. When I read the following quote I realized there could be no more hiding:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, let more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
My pattern of accidental leadership was haphazard and self-serving at best. From that point forward I decided to lead intentionally. This context of inspiration makes it clear that every season of life comes with the capacity to lead at some level. Whether we own it or not, we each play the role of leader to someone. It may begin with your friends and family, but it rarely stays there. Someone is watching for a leader like you. Believe me, it is better to lead by example than as an object lesson. I have done both! But remember, more often than not, people are watching for you to succeed rather than for you to fail.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING LEADERS TODAY?
I think one of our biggest challenges as leaders is the temptation to get ahead of ourselves. Leadership for all of us starts with influence. Oftentimes we aspire for leadership that is beyond our scope of influence. It’s valuable to dream and to aspire to greater opportunities, but it’s dangerous to focus on what’s out ahead of you and miss what is happening where you are right now.
This is something I must remind myself of daily. Too often I get ahead of myself, so I need to slow down and consider the people in my immediate spheres of influence: family, friends, co- workers, church. And then consider how God is calling me to have influence in their lives. Is there leadership responsibility I should be assuming that I’ve been ignoring? Is there a way my gifts and strengths can add value and support to the people closest to me? Am I neglecting the use of my gifts in these closest circles while grappling for opportunities with people I don’t yet have influence with? I believe that as we are faithful to where God has placed us, He continues to open doors for more opportunities to lead. Stay faithful!