Prepare for Leadership Surprises

I am an “out front” leader. I have been all my life. My dad loved to tell the story of taking me as a preschooler to visit Vacation Bible School at another church. It must have been the first day and there was a bit of confusion about lining up to go in. My dad said I announced to the other children, “Follow me; I know what to do.”

Thus my first surprise in leadership was to learn that not all leaders are like me and that my style irritates some people. This was and still is a painful lesson. It is one of the most difficult issues I face in leadership. It is helpful to remember you can’t please all the people all the time, yet sensitivity to your own style is valuable.

Another important lesson was to value those who lead without title or position. Some people aspire to be leaders, while others just are leaders, even without recognized leadership roles. They are often the people who lead from behind and get more done than most of us realize. Without them, many projects and events would never happen.

A disappointment in leadership is that some people have the title of leader but fail to lead. Their failure to lead may be because the title of leader was not something they wanted but agreed to because there was no one else willing. Such “leadership” hurts the organization.

Yet a satisfaction in leadership is to watch an unsure leader develop into an able and confident leader. Some of these leaders are conscripted into a leadership role (not recommended) yet grow into it. Many never see their own leadership potential, but others do and pull them into the role. It is wonderful to see new leaders emerge.

Leadership takes time. It takes far more time to work with others to achieve a goal than to “do it myself.” However, when we work with others and include them in the process, we are not the only ones who “own” the effort. I have taken calls from WMU leaders across the years who had made a great effort and had little response. The source of the problem became obvious as they told me, “I did this and I did that and nobody came.” When others are not involved in planning and carrying out our missions efforts, we are more likely to be disappointed.

Christ-honoring leadership is about service, not titles. Jesus experienced disappointments and we should expect no less. But like Jesus, we will also have moments of great rejoicing as we watch those we lead have new experiences and achieve important goals for the kingdom.

Joy Bolton is a preacher’s kid and is married to a pastor. She understands the challenges of working with church staff from firsthand experience both from the perspective of the staff and as a church member.









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