To all the younger, beautiful, courageous leaders, there are a whole host of us mature (gosh, I feel old saying that!) woman leaders who are cheering for you and are looking forward to your leadership contribution in our churches and our world.
As a mom of six, five of whom are daughters, I thought I could share five things to encourage you in your leadership journey. They are in no particular order, but they all matter.
Be a disciplined, devoted follower of Christ. Everybody follows someone. Jesus lived follower-ship (Jn 5:19). Every great leader must follow Christ. Jesus has a place for everyone – and that place is as his friend and follower. All good leaders are first good followers. And what keeps you humble and focused is your commitment to follow Christ all the days of your life. Christ is the anchor of your life; always keep him front and center, and never forget you are invited to follow.
Get to know yourself. The most significant gift you can give yourself is to get clear about who you are and how God has wired you. Why does this matter? Because it enables you to develop your values and helps clarify places your gift(s) might fit. Life can be overwhelming and have all kinds of ‘good things’ vying for your attention, so the more clarity you have about who you are, the more confident you can be in your choices.
Study leadership. If leadership is what you’re interested in, then make it a priority to read and learn about leadership. The day I chose to start an MA in Leadership and Management was one of the most exciting days in my journey because where I serve I’m surrounded by theologians. Now theologians are great; we need our theologians. And we also need trained leaders who know what leadership is and how to lead.
Look for opportunities to use your strengths. Markus Buckingham is right when he says “strengths are not activities you're good at, they're activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you're doing it you look forward to doing it; while you're doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you've done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” Can you name those things? Perhaps it’s preparing and delivering a sermon or Bible study. Maybe it’s coaching a sports team. Perhaps it's being a project manager. Maybe it’s making your home a safe, loving, learning environment for your children. Pause for a minute here and ask yourself, what are those activities that make my soul come alive?
Own your journey. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is more responsible than you to steward your life. Your life is a gift and it’s unique. Do you embrace that you are the chosen one of God, dearly loved and called for such a time as this? Are you fully living? If we were to sit down over tea (I’m not a coffee drinker, please don’t write me off!) and I was to ask you what you’re most proud of in your journey and what you’re aiming for, would you be able to tell me? Or would your answer be, “I’ve got no clue.” As leaders, we can’t lose sight of the fact that stewardship of our journey belongs to us.
I get that sometimes it’s hard to make sense of our journey, that sometimes we are confused or lacking in confidence, so it would be my hope for you that you have at least one or two friends whom you could turn to that can build you up. Leadership does not have to be a lonely place and the road need not always hard. May your journey be blessed and may you feel the gracious hand of our Lord upon you.