I never dreamed when I agreed to a three-year term as president of WMC (now Women of Grace USA) that my term would last 17 years. While the world has changed much in that time, some principles I have learned are relevant to any leadership position. I share them with the hope they will help and inspire others with leadership responsibilities:
• Your role is a calling from God. When I first became president, leaders were chosen by election, and women were asked to allow their names to be placed in nomination for an office. However it was becoming harder to find women willing to serve, so the attitude was often, “I’ll do it if no one else will.” In fact, that was somewhat my own attitude until one day God showed me that what I was doing was more than a job that no one else would do – it was a ministry to which He had called me. Suddenly I felt free: free to be who He called me to be, free to stop worrying about finding a successor, free to follow the direction He was setting for the organization.
• Be yourself. Initially I did everything in the same way as my predecessor. But I began to see that while we had similar gifts, my personality and style of leadership were different. I began to “feel comfortable in my own skin” and accepted the fact that God had given me the experiences and abilities I needed for the task at that time. You are not your predecessor, nor should you try to copy her. Be yourself, because God has uniquely prepared you for this job at this time.
• It is not your ministry, it is God’s, so hold it in your hands lightly. Occasionally I’ve known people who held tightly to a plan or ministry, then were upset when people didn’t do what they expected; or they expressed disappointment that their hard work was not appreciated. Pride can stand in the way of what God wants to accomplish, but a humble spirit lets God lead the way and does not expect the credit.
• Appreciate the unique giftings of team or board members, then trust them to do their jobs – don’t micromanage. My obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic side really struggled with this (and still does, sometimes). Would she do the job right (read that “my way”)? Would she meet the deadline? I had to learn to release people to God and let him take care of things. And if she didn’t do it “my way,” I learned to appreciate her way and her style, thanking God that we are all different parts of the same body, and each part has a special job to do.
• Take time to share what’s going on in team members’ personal lives. Some of the most blessed times in board meetings have been when we gathered around one who was hurting and poured out our hearts to the Lord for her. Times of sharing, rejoicing and weeping together have helped us to see that doing God’s business can be more than passing motions and checking off items on an agenda; it also can be the fellowship of a community that is safe, authentic and loving. How beautiful if all women’s ministry teams and church boards could work together in such a safe, loving community. Imagine what God would be able to accomplish!
• Listen to those who disagree or are critical. One of the best things that happened to me was when a board member met with me and lovingly pointed out a major flaw in my leadership style. At first it was hard to hear, although I knew she was right, but I’ve been deeply grateful for her courage to confront me about something I badly needed to hear.
• Celebrate often. I’ve had a little card in my kitchen for years that says, “Give God the glory in all that you do and watch Him do great things for you.” I am convinced that God has blessed Women of Grace USA far beyond our expectations because we not only have prayed, but also glorified and praised God, sometimes even before our prayers were answered. He has truly done great things.
• Last but most important: Care for your own soul. In the pressure of travel, preparation for meetings and speaking, caring for other people, answering requests, meeting deadlines, serving your family, even putting out the occasional fire, it will be easy to let soul care take a back seat. But you can’t lead out of coldness or barrenness. Keep your relationship with Jesus your highest priority. As one blogger recently said, “Leading begins with following [Jesus].” When it seems impossible to get alone to sit before Him in silence, ask God to show you creative ways to hear His voice and meditate on His word.
I have no profound words in conclusion, only gratitude. Gratitude for the lessons God saw fit to teach me. And much gratitude for the many women (and some men, too) over the years who have walked with me, been patient with my failures and mistakes, prayed with and for me, and helped me to learn. To all of them I say, “Thank you.” To God alone be the glory.