Leading Well: It Begins with You
Over the last year, I've backed out of every official leadership role I had and strangely enough, I feel like I'm finally living the life I want to lead! Just in the last few months when I didn't have the "leader" label, I've realized that informal leadership opportunities arise everyday that can bring me closer to the life I want.
I've never felt so free to live in my unique calling.
Why the Change?
A couple of years ago I realized that every group activity I was involved in, I assumed a leadership role. I'm a "natural leader", as in...I'm easier to deal with on a team if you give me some solid responsibility. Haha!
But more recently, I started to see areas where my leadership was negatively affecting other people because I wasn't in the right place to lead. It wasn't anything drastic or scandalous, but I was finding myself easily irked, which is a sure sign that something is off.
After praying about it, I felt God asking me to back away from public leadership positions so I could re-focus during this new season of life.
My first reaction was real mature...
But God?! I like leading! And people like me leading! What if I never get to lead again??
Through more prayer and focusing on the Lord, I found out that my motivation for leading was all wrong, and I needed to get right before I could lead well.
I wanted to be "the leader" more than I wanted to lead people. I was more focused on who I could influence than I was with the people I was influencing.
The point of leadership is not to lead as many people as you can. The point is to lead well in a way that glorifies God, whether it be one million people or one. Our focus should always be on the quality of leadership we provide, not the quantity in the crowd. If you don't have a good foundation, quantity will expand at the detriment of quality.
To put it practically: Would you rather be like Wal-Mart with lots of stores, lots of revenue, and a lousy shopping experience? Or would you rather be like Neiman Marcus?
If you ask me, I'm always going to say Neimans!
My leadership was lousy, because I had the wrong motives. My leadership was about me, and where I wanted to go in life. Instead, I should have been waiting to say "yes" to a divine plan that God carved out for my life long before the stars were born. But I was saying "yes" to evvvverything, which made my influence wide and shallow.
READ THIS: If you say "yes" to too much, click the link below to buy + read The Best Yes*! It could change your life.
I was wrecked. I didn't want to be another lousy leader. I took it up to the Lord and heard this from Him:
By the end of your life, you will accomplish a lot. People will like you and appreciate all the work you did. But will you accomplish MY will or YOURS?
YIKES! Isn't that the question of the decade?! Will I accomplish the Lord's will or my own?
I needed to go back and figure out if I was following the Lord into these roles or if I was following my own desires. I realized that all of the leadership roles I held started this way:
- Someone asked me to lead because they needed a leader...not necessarily because I was the right person for it.
- I agreed, because (A) I really do enjoy leading people, and (B) I do not enjoy saying "no".
- I ended up leading for a longer amount of time than I planned, doing work that wasn't growing me.
- I missed other opportunities that would have been better for me, had I said "no" to the quickest asks.
That sounds like I was following my own will, not the Lord's. So I shed all my roles, and got back to the root of leadership: self-leadership.
The Woman in the Mirror
In the last few months, without my usual leadership roles, I've been working on the woman in the mirror. Me. The one people go to for help. "The inspirational one." The woman in charge.
Yeah...she needed a reset.
I've spent so much of my last year asking the Lord:
Lord, change me and my wrong opinions and anything hidden in the dark corners of my heart. I surrender to you.
Of course other "opportunities" arose over the last year that I had to say "no" to. While I'm no longer an official "leader" of anything, I've been able to lead in ways I didn't even notice before. Ways that don't win awards or even receive much gratitude, but shape the character of who I'm becoming in life.
Last week, I was able to lead one person. Just one. And it was ginormously meaningful!
A friend was texting me kinda upset, and I recognized it was a coded way of asking for help. I called her and talked for 2 hours and helped her...really helped her!!
I'm never going to win a leadership award for this, but I'm so happy about it, because it was ordained in the Heavenlies that I should help this friend with this problem on this exact day.
I didn't give her the formula for success -- which by the way isn't real leadership, it's just barking. I helped lead her through foggy territory based on progress I made weeks before on similar ground! She was going through a period of life where the enemy was spewing all kinds of lies against her true identity as God's Beloved Daughter. If you read my latest blog post, you know I went through this exact same attack recently! How cool is God?? He's big enough to know Every. Single. Person. Ever...yet intimate enough to be in every detail of our lives, and visionary enough to cross our paths at just the right time!!
This leadership opportunity wasn't cloaked in a royal robe, and it didn't come with a sceptor of power over lots of people. It was simply an opportunity to be a guide to someone who was walking a similar path as me.
While this opportunity involved a 2-hour phonecall, it took years of preparation to get to the place of being able to lead someone through this kind of spiritual warfare. And truthfully, it wasn't because of our friendship being so amazing or me being amazing. It all really started with God's leadership. Let's dive into how leadership begins:
God as the source --> who changes our lives --> and then helps us lead our circle of influence.
Leadership + God
If you flip back to Genesis chapter 1, verse 1, you will read:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
This strikes me, because God didn't phone a friend, consult a mentor, or read a book on how to create. He didn't drum up an Insta poll asking what other people wanted Him to create. He simply did it. There was nobody for Him to consult for approval or advice. He is the root of all things good and perfect. So when He decides to do something, He just does it.
What we should realize from this is that God is the source of all goodness. All good decisions come from His mind.
Leadership + You
You aren't God, and neither am I. PTL! When we decide to do something, we should always first seek God as the source of goodness.
I'm a firm believer that leadership begins in your relationship with God. It begins by yielding your mood, feelings, ambition and the direction of your life -- everything! -- to the Lord.
(That's the meaning of the name "Lord". He rules your life. Which is why the Bible says in James 2:19 that even demons call Him "God", but He isn't "Lord" over their lives. Do you acknowledge Him as "God" but not Lord of YOUR life?)
Once you've fully surrendered the leading of your life to God, you have to begin leading yourself. You. In the mirror. Nobody else. Despite any circumstance. You lead you...to the cross. To God. To truth.
AFTER seeking God, THEN we seek godly counsel. So many times, we want external approval or acknowledgement before we take any action. But that's all whack. God wants such a close relationship with you that you run to Him for approval, not letting anyone else have that #1 influencer spot.
The first commandment of the 10 is:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of [every sin you were in before], out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
NO other gods...not popularity, not people pleasing syndrome, not social media likes and "friends", not real friends, and not even your spouse!!! No other gods before THE God. Nobody else gets to tell you the best decisions to make, because God does. So when God tells you to build an ark, and everyone laughs at you...you build the ark. When God tells you to lead an entire nation out of slavery, you lead them. When God tells you to lead evil Ninevah to repentance, you go to Ninevah.
People don't have to agree with you. You have to agree with God. That's it.
Leadership begins with the woman staring back at you in the mirror.
Leadership + Your Circle
Once you've surrendered the title of "Lord" to THE Lord, you're in a good, solid place to begin leading other people in your life.
A lack of self-leadership is why people in leadership positions are so often caught with their pants down...literally and metaphorically! :P They try leading others and build up a big reputation before they correctly lead themselves. That's sucky. A lot of people get hurt when that happens. So get the order right, and lead well.
Good, now that we've resolved that...
Do you know how much influence you have onthe people around you? Do you know how greatly your social media influences people? Do you know how deeply your texts affect people? You have massive influence, even without a title, so let's figure out how we can lead well right where we are.
Practical ways to lead well today
- Look yourself in the mirror and ask: What actions will I take today to become the person I dream of being? Do you want to be thoughtful? Go bring coffee to someone. Do you want to be patient? Drive to work in the slow lane. Take a practical step today.
- Speak words of kindness that affirm each person's identity and purpose: loved by God, child of God, crafted by God to magnify His glory on earth and in Heaven, endowed with divine purpose.
- Refrain from getting offended...and letting people know how offended you are. (This is one of my 2018 goals HAHA!) How many leadership opportunities have I dethroned myself from because my bad attitude? Like a million...but I'm moving forward, learning from my mistakes, and surrendering these bad habits to the Lord.
- Use social media FOR GOOD. Since I'm a SM user as well, let me tell you the best and worst ways I've seen it used this past week. Worst: Posting pictures that are screaming for any ole bro to give you any kind of attention. Girl, know your worth!! Your soul is worth more than your body. Then there's the BEST: There's a watercolor artist I discovered on Insta who is phenomenally talented. Her paintings are exquisite, and unique, and they point to the greatness of her creator. The point is to lead your life in the way you want to see the world change. If you don't want social media to be a comparison game, post things that are authentic: the victories and the trials. If you don't want it to be so trashy, post wholesome material. (That sounds like I'm 80, but really...) Lead the wave of change you that want the world to follow.
Leadership + Eternal Influence
Lastly, I'll leave you with something to dream about tonight. The leadership you're able to create because of your time spent before the Lord will have an impact so great, you couldn't possibly imagine.
This past weekend, my husband and I visited his great grandmother. It was my first time to meet her, and I was anxious to look a legend in the eyes. Based on the family she's raised, I assumed she would be marvelous, maybe intimidating, and certainly loquacious.
After driving all morning, I walked in to meet a 5 foot-nothing, couldn't have been 100 pounds, little white-haired lady with a curly perm. THIS was great granny. How could the huge, loving family I know come from this little lady?! Personal. Leadership. Leading her personal life in ways that would make government officials shake in their boots. She set standards for herself and her family that echo into my daily life today...someone she only just met, who is 65 years her junior.
My home is peaceful for several reasons. Firstly, my husband and I prioritize our personal relationships with the Lord. We work hard to forgive each other quickly. We don't entertain drama (and dramatic people). We don't talk trash about people. We talk up people's good qualities. These things lead to a peaceful home. And do you know where my husband learned to do these things? At Papa + Grandma's house during his elementary school days. Granny is Grandma's mother, who set the tone for Grandma's life. Over the weekend, I remember hearing mention of an incident from the past that was bad for the family. Instead of talking about it, getting all up-in-arms again, and pointing out who did the wrong, Grandma said, "Now, we just won't talk about that." And we quickly moved on to a pleasant conversation.
Admittedly, I'm the first person to call out a boneheaded move, but I've been working on refraining. Being around people who don't let ugly words escalate has helped tremendously. I know if I start talking about all the drama of my day, my husband is going to be disinterested. But if I talk about something good that happened, he's going to listen. So in a way, his training from his childhood has been training me to speak well.
Do you get it? Your influence in leadership extends far past what you can see. The decisions you're making today will affect the home your children are raised in, which will affect how they raise their children, which will affect the daughter-in-law of your step-granddaughter! LOL! I can't even make this stuff up.
Your choices have long-term impact, both in 4 generations from now and into eternity. So choose to lead well.
How Can I Lead Well?
If you agree that leadership begins with your relationship with God, and you want to learn to lead yourself before you lead others, here are some things you can do today:
Go try the practical ways to lead well (list above). Brainstorm other ways that you can add to this list! Comment below with ideas that come to mind!
And if you can relate to my struggle with other people leading me toward their goals, and away from my own...or if you simply struggle with saying the word "no"...I want you to buy the book below, and learn to say YOUR "BEST YES"*. This book has changed my life since I read it in April! I think about My Best Yes almost every single day.
And in all your leading, let the Lord lead you first!
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear different ways you've learned to lead in unofficial & informal positions below in the comments section!
*Priska Jordan is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.