Lead…the one word that sends most people scrambling for the hills.
What is it about the action of leading that makes us automatically disqualify, rationalize and all but talk ourselves out of ever taking on a position of leadership? We know we could, probably even should, but when it comes to actually stepping up and doing it, we falter under the realization that we, yes we, would actually be responsible for making decisions and guiding others in our realm of influence.
Now, this isn’t a sticking point for everyone, but it seems to be particularly true for women. Should we stay or should we go? Should we lead or should we shrink back?
As I struggled with this tension, I began to uncover women in history who lead effortlessly despite their conditions, qualifications or circumstances. The Judge Deborah from the book of Judges stood out the most. She was judge over all of Israel in a time where women had no rights and very little influence. Reflecting over her life, there were no instances of Deborah trying to prove herself or her worth. She just was.
She didn’t fight or jockey for position. She was chosen; given authority and permission to lead. I think that’s what we all need . . . permission. So this, today, right now is your permission to lead. You don’t have to be qualified to change the world. You don’t have to be a genius to feed the hungry. You don’t have to be perfect to lead a revolution of love. In short, you just have to be you. A woman determined to lead within her sphere of influence to help make things just a little bit better; a little bit brighter.
Examining Deborah and the way she judged the nation of Israel in that time gave me a new confidence. She was assertive yet gentle, a visionary yet a comrade, a truth speaker and yet a grace giver. What she taught me was to be a woman in leadership is the best sort of leader. Not only did she bring her craft to the table, she brought a certain level of organization, vision, execution, flexibility, grace and most importantly love.
So how do we as women determined to lead in this new place of believing that we are more than capable of leading, even begin? There were three things that stood out that if we are going to lead and lead well we will have to focus on achieving.
Lead Well: I get asked a lot what I think about women leading in ministry. Being that it is a heavily male dominated field, my answer is always the same. If a woman is going to be given the title of leader in this particular area, she must lead well. Not out of a place of “I’m the boss,” but from a place of I am responsible for this area, how can I bring the most positive, productive resources that will build my team and make this organization that much better under my leadership?
At the end of the day, people choose to follow the leader, not her title. When we choose to lead well, we value people over the process. What’s going on with them personally over how much they can produce for us. Yes we understand that things have to get done, but if we’re not invested in them, how can we ever expect them to be invested in our vision or us. Those who are bought into your vision will be the very same people who will drive execution. Not because they have to, but because they want to.
Lead from Love: I hit on this briefly in point one, but leading from love is so important. I work for a large organization with over twenty thousand people coming through our doors on any given weekend. At the particular location I get to serve at, about three thousand people come through our doors one day a week. It is a big machine and it takes a lot of people to make that day happen. Now let’s gain some perspective. I am responsible for caring for the adults that encompass those three thousand people. Let’s say about twenty six hundred people. There is no way humanly possible for me to personally care for those many needs, so I cast vision. I invite other leaders to lead alongside me. I train, I invest, I encourage and then I release them to lead others. In short, through the grace of God, I love them into leading others. I believe in them so much, I don’t have to actually say “I love you,” that might be awkward . . . I lead from a place of love. Cheering them on until they become more than they ever thought they could possibly be. You can do the same. Leading from love means wanting the best for those around you, those you are responsible for. When you lead this way, people will follow you as long as you are willing to lead them. They are invested in you because you have invested in them.
Stand Tall: We all know that kids say and ask the most random of things. One of my co-worker’s daughter who frequents our office after school during the week came up to me the other day and asked, “Mrs. Vonae, why do you always wear big shoes?” Now I could have given her an answer like, “I don’t know, I like them,” but wanting to make every moment a lesson for the next generation, I answered, “Because they give me power.” She looked at me with those six year old eyes of hers and giggled. We had a good laugh before she skipped away, but think about that. As a leader, how many other women, young women, older women, women your own age are looking up to you? We will never know how far our influence reaches, or who is looking to us to lead, so if we choose to lead, we must lead from a posture of standing tall. That doesn’t mean wear big shoes, although it is proven to give you power. (Well maybe that’s just me, but it’s worth a try).
Standing tall means to remember who you are. To lead in a way that words, disappointments, and being overlooked won’t deter you from those you were placed here to lead. Leading is not easy, there will be people who wont like your leadership style, or who just think you have no place to lead, but when you take this posture, it says, “I’m standing tall for the women coming behind me. The young girl who thought she would never have a chance.” When we choose to stand tall for a purpose, we gain a new power and authority behind our stance.
So there’s your permission to lead. Leading isn’t about the title or the prestige. Choosing to be a woman who leads says you will be a woman of God, a woman of grace, love and mercy, a woman of influence, a woman who changes things, a woman who sets an example and speaks new vision, but most importantly, a woman who stands tall for those who cannot stand for themselves.
So lead and lead well.