Tag Archive for: leaders

It has been a while since I checked in with you.  How are you doing? You have done well leading through a difficult time. I have said it before and I believe it today, you were created to lead in such a time as this. 

Which brings me to the question, “How have you been leading during racial unrest?” I’m curious. I am learning that each of us leads in different ways. Some believe that the less said the better. Others believe that they should call out racism when they see it. Some dismiss racism saying, “this too shall pass,” while others have difficult conversations. How have you been leading people to respond to racial and social unrest? 

We may be coming to the end of the COVID pandemic, but we are not coming to the end of racism. The day I am writing this blog is the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

The Tulsa Race Massacre

My guess is that you are just learning about this event in our history. I say that based upon my own experience.  I did not read or hear about the massacre in high school. It was only after I was in college, as a Social Studies major, that I heard about it. And at that time, it was still called the Tulsa race riots.  

Just to refresh your memory, on May 31, 1921, a white mob marched into the predominantly Black Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, and set fire to businesses, homes, and churches. Over 300 black lives were lost, thousands of people were left homeless, 35 blocks of the city were burned, all within an 18-hour period. For many years there were no public ceremonies, memorials for the dead, or any efforts to remember the events of the massacre. In fact, until recent years, the event was not even taught in Oklahoma classrooms. 

How are you leading?

How do you lead in that kind of racial and social unrest and denial? I know that it takes some courage to even talk about race and the differences that have kept so many of us apart as human beings. But I think courageous leadership can be shown in another way which might bring about the deep change that is so desperately needed.  This week we will look at our condition. Next week we will look at our hope. 

Our Condition

Let’s start with our condition. An honest look at current reality will help you lead effectively with conviction and courage.  

What do we know? We know that racism is the belief that:

  1. Human beings can be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities.
  2. These exclusive biological entities possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, that distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another. 
  3. These exclusive biological entities are inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, as well as other cultural and behavioral characteristics.
  4. The systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantages of another racial group

In other words, racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism, in our attitudes and actions, toward people who are different in ethnicity or race. Our attitudes and actions are usually rooted in the idea we are superior to those who are different. 

What else do we know?

We know that as Jesus followers, we believe:

  1. Racism in all its forms is sinful (James 2:1, 8-9)
  2. Racism goes against God’s design for the world. All of us belong to the family of God, we have a high calling to love other people as Christ has loved (John 13:34-35)
  3. Every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of our deep respect.
  4. When we treat anyone as lesser than anyone else, we simply are not in line with the gospel of Jesus.
  5. When we see life through the lens of God, every person we see is loved by God and equal in the sight of God.

The Reality of Racism

Even with an understanding of what racism is and what we believe as Jesus followers, the reality is racism is perpetuated in powerful ways. It comes through the clash of nations and races, the differences between cultures and politics. It also comes through the assumptions we make about one another.  Finally, it comes through the experiences we have and the teaching and modeling we have received from those who have gone before us. Racism is passed on when we teach our children what to believe about race. 

To understand our condition and to lead courageously in and through racial and social unrest, it is helpful to know how you first learned about race. What attitudes, actions, or events have shaped your life and ideas?   

South Pacific

As you think back upon your life experiences, let me tell you about the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific”. The issue of racial prejudice was explored through the musical. 

One song in particular created a controversy. It was sung by the character, Lieutenant Joe Cable, a United States Marine. He was in love with Liat, a young Tonkinese woman. Yes, he explored his fears of what might happen if he married her.  He struggled with his own racism. Lieutenant Joe Cable is able to overcome it sufficiently to love Liat, but not enough to take her home. He said, “Racism is not born in you, it happens after you are born.” Then he sings: 

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a different shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

The production of South Pacific was almost cancelled because of this one song. Written in 1949, based upon the book, Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener, the producers were told to remove the song, or the production would not go forward. Rodgers and Hammerstein defended the song. They had a story to tell, so they built the musical around the song and its implications. Even if it meant the failure of the production, the song was going to stay in the musical.

Is the Song Correct?

Think about it.

Is the song correct?

Is racism taught?

How did you learn about race when you were growing up? Are you able to trace back to when, how, and by whom you were taught? Your understanding of yourself, attitudes, thoughts, and actions regarding race is important to you being the courageous leader needed to navigate the racial unrest of our day. 

This week, to better understand your current reality and to navigate the obstacles of racial unrest, reflect upon this question, “How did I first learn about race?” Set aside a few minutes to write your thoughts down so that you can get a clear understanding of your first awareness and learnings. What experiences do you remember? Who was involved? What happened to leave an impact upon your memory? 

Recognizing Your Condition

Recognizing your condition is essential to leading courageously in the midst of racial and social unrest. You are at a critical point in your leadership. This is a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. Who you are is how you lead. Will you step into this opportunity to explore who you are in relationship to the people around you? 

We will continue this discussion in next week’s blog. We will explore our hope in part two of “Leading Through Racial Unrest.”

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.   

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Amy Burgess, Rosie Red, is our guest are we explore the theme of “Rest, Relaxation, and Play.” Join us for Episode 181. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

People are ready to resume the social interactions they missed during the pandemic. They are yearning to get back to the groups and activities that brought meaning to their lives. They have rediscovered the importance of relationships and are ready to fill the void that has been created.   

Because of this longing to reestablish relationships, you are at a critical point in your leadership. You have an opportunity to step into this void and to nurture community. So, how will you lead? 

Relationships are Essential for Community

I know there are several alternatives, but the reality is you will either slide into the way things were before the pandemic or you will nurture people into new relationships. You will either allow people to close their circle of influence or you will lead them into deeper and broader interactions in their neighborhoods, towns, and cities. So, how will you lead? 

As you are thinking about it, remember that community is about the interrelatedness of people. It’s about belonging to something larger than ourselves. It helps people say, “I am a valued part of this body and have contributions to make”. The essence of community is a feeling of being in relationship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals centered in Jesus. 

Three Aspects of Community

This interrelatedness is seen in three aspects of community:

Connection

Nurturing communities facilitate connections between people. They are the places that help you develop relationships with others on several levels. There are immediate, superficial connections that cause you to look around the room and ask, “Who here is like me?” And on a deeper level, you connect with people around your stage of life, life experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, etc. When you experience connection with other people, you know you belong to something bigger than yourself.

Contribution

Nurturing communities invite you to make a contribution. Your connection leads to contributing to the community with your skills, gifts, and passions. Through your contribution, you are saying, “I am a valued part of this group and I have something to offer.”   

Care

Care is the integration of connection and contribution. When people know that you care about them, care about their talents, care about their contributions and connections to the greater community, they are more likely to be involved in the community. This doesn’t mean you have to offer all the care, but it does mean you are offering God’s love in every situation and circumstance of the community in which you are leading. Simply stated, you are loving God and loving neighbor in all that you do. 

Every community is made up of different members who work for a common purpose.  Effective leaders recognize those differences and understand that the differences are crucial for healthy community interaction and function.

Every Member 

Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, uses the metaphor of the human body, to illustrate this point. He writes that even though the body is made of many parts, it is still one body. And even though the body includes great diversity, every member is equally a part and important to the function of the body. 

As you know, his point had nothing to do with human anatomy.  He used the metaphor to show that every follower of Christ is important and for the body to function properly, all parts of the body are needed. He points out that no one has the right to act as though he or she is separate from the body and no one has the right to exclude others from the body. For the body to function properly, all parts of the body are needed. 

God created each of us and expects us to faithfully serve according to our unique giftedness. As a leader, you view every person of your community as a crucial part and you assist every person to live out his or her giftedness in relationship with others. 

“Members of the Body”

Maybe you can think of it this way. 

One day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work while the Stomach did nothing but store all the food. So, the Members of the Body held a meeting and decided to strike until the Stomach consented to do its share of the work. 

The strike began. 

The Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. After a day or two, the Members began to find that they themselves were in poor condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest of the Body. It was at that moment, the Members of the Body discovered that the Stomach was doing necessary work for the whole Body to be healthy.  The Members decided that they all must work together for the Body to function properly. 

Your Role as a Leader

As a leader, you work to make sure every person of your community makes their contribution to the whole of the community. 

Maybe you can think of it this way. A great orchestra had gathered to rehearse with a celebrated conductor. As the music reached a crescendo, every instrument was being played, except for one.  Distracted, the piccolo player had momentarily lost his place on the page of music.  He hoped his instrument wouldn’t be missed.  Suddenly, the conductor brought down his arm and silenced the orchestra.  He looked over the group of musicians and asked, “I didn’t hear the piccolo. Where is the piccolo?” A skilled leader, like a skilled conductor, assists every person in the community, regardless of perceived importance, to make his or her contribution. Every part of the system is crucial, even those that seem small and less significant.

Now, why is this important? For God’s love to be known by all people in creation, it takes all of us, related to each other and working together, to connect with the people beyond ourselves. Each of us has our part in the body. 

Four Functions of a Nurturing Community

To use Paul’s metaphor, what does it have to do with our part in the nurturing community, the Body of Christ? It means the following: 

1. We see through the eyes of Christ

When we see each other as God sees us, we see with the love of God. There are distinctions and differences, but no one distinction has greater value than the other. In other words, there are distinctions of black and white, male and female, east and west, but all are one in Christ. Through the eyes of Christ every person is a child of God, a person of worth. As a leader, nurturing community means, you are leading people to see each other as God sees them and to see the world in loving concern. 

There is no selective service in caring for people. Seeing through the eyes of Christ means we see all people and not just the people who are like us. Where there is suffering, poverty, injustice, hatred, etc., you assist the people entrusted to your care to see Jesus.

2. We speak with the voice of Christ

When you speak, use words of care and compassion. Don’t confine the voice of Christ to those with whom you agree or with those who agree with you. Speak to human beings in every situation and every condition.  It is not a matter of a social gospel or a personal gospel.  Nor is it a matter of who is progressive or who is conservative. No, it does not matter who is a Democrat or who is a Republican. It is a matter of God’s love spoken into the lives of every human life.  Remember Jesus’ sermon recorded in Luke 4? He used the words of Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He had sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). 

To speak with the voice of Christ is to use your voice with words of love (agape).  Whether it be in our families or with our enemies, no area is off-limits to God’s Word (Jesus, the Word made flesh). As a leader, you have been anointed to speak the good news and to equip those entrusted to you to speak to all who will listen. 

Paul in this letter to the church in Ephesus wrote: “Let no evil talk of out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). As a leader, speak with the voice of Christ, so that those who need a kind, caring, and encouraging word, hear your voice of love, support, and care.  

3. We heal with the hands of Christ

 When you respond to human need, respond with the hands of hope and healing. Sometimes hope and healing come with grace and forgiveness. Do you remember the story of Hosea? As a prophet to Israel, Hosea’s job was to predict the nations’ exile and later restoration.  In order to illustrate God’s love for the nation, he was commanded to marry Gomer, a prostitute. He did so, but his heart was broken when she proved unfaithful and left him. Later, Hosea sought out an emotionally broken and financially destitute Gomer, forgave her, and renewed their marriage relationship.

Hosea’s love for Gomer serves as a picture of God’s love for unfaithful people.  It serves as an example for us to follow.  There will be times you are called upon, as the leader, to seek out, forgive and restore those who have wronged you. Such actions will require the compassionate and grace-filled hands of Christ. 

Sometimes hope and healing come with justice and compassion among the poor and the elderly; in the divisions that continue between races, the inequities that continue between female and male, and the widening economic gap between rich and poor. The healing of hands of Christ are needed among those who are economically deprived and politically oppressed, as well among those who have everything except what they need to make what they have worthwhile and meaningful. As a leader, assist those entrusted to you to heal with the healing hands of Christ. 

4. We breathe with the breath of Christ

We are not only a human organization or institution, we are living and breathing organisms. In fact, we have no community without the breath of Christ. On the day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to empower the church to be agape for all people. Because of God’s love for each of us, regardless of who we are or what we have done, God uses us to reach all people with his love. That is why, as a leader, assist people in finding connections in the community and in making their contributions of hope and healing. 

A Critical Moment

You are at a critical point in your leadership. This is a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. Will you step into this opportunity to nurture community to see with the eyes of Christ, to speak with the voice of Christ, to heal with the hands of Christ, and to breathe in the breath of Christ? God has provided the people you need to take a step into this opportunity. 

Think about it and reflect upon it. How can I come alongside you to assist you in making the connections needed, to make your God-given contribution to your nurturing community? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. Your next steps reveal your place in the Body and the God given contributions you are making. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.   Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I  introduce our theme for June, “Rest, Relaxation, and Play.” If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 180. Become a regular LeaderCast listener. Subscribe and listen to a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.

We are on the downhill side of the pandemic.  Several of the mandates, like wearing masks outside and the number of people gathering in public places, are being relaxed. Much of what we could not do over the past year is coming back. With that in mind, how are you leading or preparing to lead into this “new normal”?

Are you expecting things to go back to the way they were? Are you building upon some of the things you learned? Do you have a plan for bringing people back together into community? Things have changed. How are you leading your community out of the pandemic and into a new reality? 

The Moment Things Changed

As you reflect upon these questions, let’s look at a moment in time when things changed and a new way of leading emerged. The moment of change is recorded in the bible as The Day of Pentecost found in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles. 

On the Day of Pentecost, one hundred and twenty discouraged, self-absorbed, willful, frightened, powerless men and women were transformed into new people. They lived through an experience that brought about a new intellectual and emotional reality.  

Through their experience, they began to communicate in ways that connected with people. In that connection, the people who were curious asked, “What does this mean?”  As in all new experiences, the people who were cynical viewed the experience as nonsense. 

An Opportunity to Lead

Both the curious questions and the cynical comments were received as an opportunity to lead people into a new reality. Simon Peter, taking advantage of the moment, began to give his account of what had happened, beginning with his experience of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and continuing through the presence of Jesus on that very day. He explained God’s offer of love (agape) and relationship (community) in Jesus. He clearly named current reality when he told them about people who had refused God’s invitation. Then he offered hope when he explained what could happen to those who would receive the invitation. 

Many of the curious, when they experienced the leadership of Simon Peter asked, “What shall we do?”  He was ready with clear direction. “It is time to change the way we have been looking at things. A new normal is here. God’s love is greater than we have ever imagined.” Then he gave clear directions for living into the new normal.   

A New Way of Leading

In the midst of the change, a new way of leading emerged. The people who followed, were received in a new normal of love and relationship, They devoted themselves to learning new ways to live together in koinonia (community). 

If you are saying that there is a world of difference between a COVID pandemic and the Day of Pentecost, you are correct. But just as the Day of Pentecost was an opportunity to love and live differently, the COVID pandemic provides the same opportunity.  

Do you have a plan for bringing people back together into community? Even though some things have changed, other things have not changed. As you are leading your community out of the pandemic and into a new reality, keep in mind the following:

1. You are part of a learning community

Be persisted in learning new ways for a new day.  Learn from the people around you. Learn from authors and teachers. Learning is at the heart leading.

2. You are nurturing community

The word “koinonia” means having in common or in fellowship.  At the heart of fellowship or relationship is the love of God (agape). We know that love in and through Jesus. Jesus is our common bond and it is greater than anything or anyone else.  It is the love of God we have experienced in Jesus who draws us into community and who loves us in and through each other.  

3. You are in a community of prayer

Community life is lived out as unselfish and non-manipulative concern and caring for one another. It takes time to be together to listen to each other, care, and be for each other.   Prayer together becomes the time of communication with God, who replenishes us, so we are unselfish in care and concern.

4. You are a worshipping community

In worship, we express outwardly the presence of God’s love living within us, as we affirm our love for one another. People are attracted to the joy of the community. They want to be with loving people. 

A New Way of Living

The reality is you are on the downhill side of the pandemic. You will either slide into the way things were before or you will lead into a new way of living and loving. 

You have an opportunity to lead into a new day. This opportunity never presented itself before and will be present only for a short period of time. So, what one thing will you do to change and be the leader people need and want for this new day? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. So, keep your purpose in mind. Love the people around you. Communicate clearly and directly. And when the time is right, invite people to join you on this journey into a post-pandemic reality. We have been created for this moment in time. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

A Reminder

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I have a conversation with April Casperson, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the West Ohio Conference. April shares grace-filled wisdom about community, relationships, and  diversity. Her role is to help people work better across differences. 

If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 178. If you have not been a regular LeaderCast listener, you will want to start with this episode. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.  

Have you ever seen the digital “Your Speed” signs alongside the road? The sign tells you how fast you are going as you drive past. Now, you have that information on your speedometer, but having it projected at you from a different angle allows you to receive the information in a unique way.  The sign is designed to help you alter your speed. By gathering information and presenting it in a relevant way, the assumption is that you will receive the information and respond with positive action.

Your Speed Signs

Most of us are more effective in life and leadership when we know where we stand and where we are going. It is the feedback along the way that helps us make the adjustments that assist us into living into who we are created to be. Feedback, even if it is information you already know, helps you alter your behavior in a positive way.

To fully develop a healthy self-awareness, it is important to understand how you are perceived by the people with whom you live, work, and associate on a daily basis. In a constructive and beneficial way, these people are “Your Speed” signs.

Your Response to Feedback

Bill George, in his book Discover Your Truth North, tells the story of Kroger CEO David Dillon. Dillon, in telling his experience regarding feedback, says, “Feedback helps you take the blinders off, face reality, and see yourself as you really are.” 

He admits that his natural reaction to feedback is defensiveness. He attributes this to how he copes with negative information.  Now, you and I know that it can be tough to hear negative things about ourselves. But Dillon makes a point to tell colleagues that he appreciates their input despite how it may make him feel. Just because something is uncomfortable, does not mean it’s wrong. It takes maturity to graciously accept feedback that you would rather not hear.

Receiving Feedback

To grow as an effective leader, you need others to help give you information from a different angle so you can receive it, reflect upon it, and respond to it in positive ways. To be truly self-aware you must know how your behavior affects others.

Now, how do you set up “Your Speed” signs? How do you solicit feedback and interpret it in a way that allows you to respond with positive action?

Mistakes We Make Around Feedback

One way to solicit information is to ask people with whom you work to give you anonymous written feedback. Although this will provide you with information upon which you can reflect and respond, it does two things that are not helpful.  

First, we tend to think that anonymity allows people to be more honest in their feedback. The reality is anonymity feeds the mistrust that creates a culture of fear. As a leader, you want to create a culture of trust through vulnerability and transparency. Anonymous information falls short of creating a culture of trust. 

Second, we tend to make anonymous information at the end of the process.  The purpose of the exercise is not to collect information but to help you become more the person and the leader you are created to be. 

The information is a means to an end, a tool to assist you in your self-awareness. The purpose is for you to receive feedback that helps you become more the person and the leader you are created to be.

Open and Honest Feedback

With that in mind, true feedback is best provided in open conversations with people who are honest in their offerings. The conversation is with trusted friends and colleagues who desire to support you and who want you to be the best human being as well the best leader you can be.   

So, a better way to solicit information is to ask three to five persons, who you trust, to help you. You want at least three people, preferably five, because you will receive more reliable feedback. 

It is one thing to receive feedback from one person, but it is another to receive the exact same feedback from three, four, or five different people. If a larger number of trusted friends and colleagues are telling you the same thing about your behavior, you are more likely to make a positive change.

Four Steps for Receiving Feedback

Here are four steps for getting feedback on how your behaviors are affecting others.

1. Ask for feedback.

This is your opportunity to gather information. Invite 3 to 5 people to assist you in becoming the best leader you can be.  These people are people who you trust, who have your best interest in mind, and who have a good understanding of you, your work style, and how you interact with others. They are people who care about you. Because of Your trust relationship, these people are people who will be honest with you.  

Tasha Eurich, in her book, Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think, writes, “Feedback from one person is a perspective; feedback from two people is a pattern; but feedback from three or more people is likely to be as close to a fact as you can get.”

You can either have them gather as a group or you can interact with each person individually. Just remember, the people you are inviting to offer feedback are trusted friends, colleagues, and family members who want you to succeed. People you trust and who will be honest with you. 

2. Gather your information. 

This is your opportunity to receive feedback. At this point, it is best to focus on a few things rather than everything. So, ask the following questions, one at a time. Give people time to think and to respond.

  • What am I currently doing well that demonstrates my skills as a leader?
  • What are examples of growth you have observed in me since we began working together?
  • What is one thing, if I did it at an improved level, that would have a positive impact on my leadership? 

At this point, your responsibility is to listen. Listen with your mind and heart for understanding.  Listen to receive the information. Take notes for your time of reflection. Give yourself permission not to defend yourself or to interrupt those giving feedback to clarify what you are hearing.  Remember, these people have your best interest in mind. Presume positive intent and stay neutral as you gather and receive the feedback.

3. Receive, reflect, and respond.

First, receive the feedback with grace. This information is for you and your improvement. This is your opportunity to grow in your self-awareness. Keep in mind you have asked trusted friends and colleagues to assist you. Each person cares for you and has your best interest in mind.  

Second, reflect upon the feedback you have received. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I learning about myself?
  • How do others perceive my work style?
  • How do others perceive my interaction with the people around me?”

Third, respond to the feedback you have received. Keep in mind the following:

  • This is not a time to be defensive, to shut down, or to dismiss what you are learning.
  • Take notes and remember what you are feeling when you receive the feedback.
  • Name the emotions you are experiencing. Be specific. It is important to name your feelings.
  • Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to be the person I want to be?”

4. Thank the people who have assisted you in gathering your feedback. 

Gratitude is important in developing self-awareness.

  • Share with them how the feedback has been helpful.
  • Share how you will use the feedback. What are one or two steps you plan to take?
  • If you are not ready to share specific steps, make a commitment to get back to each person at a later time.  Be specific regarding date and time.
  • Give each person permission to hold you accountable to your next steps. 

Set up Your Speed Sign

Growing in self-awareness is not easy.  There are no quick fixes. In fact, developing a healthy self-awareness is a lifetime process. By taking the risk to become vulnerable, by gathering feedback from others, indicates your desire to enter the process and become the leader God has created you to be.

This week, set up “Your Speed” sign?  What one step will you take to receive the feedback you need to become the person and leader for this time in history? 

When you want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about self-awareness. This week we have a conversation with Barry Burns. Check out our conversation in Episode 170 of LeaderCast. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  

Every day you face situations, circumstances, and people you cannot control. As a leader, because you cannot control these things, it is important that you understand and learn to control yourself. Your leadership depends upon it. Even though a lot of your effectiveness is determined by factors you cannot control, you can still control how you respond to them. 

This is why self-awareness is so important to leadership. You can not only improve your life but become the leader you are created to be by practicing self-awareness in your everyday life and situations. 

Here are three practices that will help you become a more self-aware leader. 

1.Focus upon the positive when in a negative situation. 

This might seem simplistic, but it is more than positive thinking. When you are fully aware of the negative situation or circumstance in which you find yourself, you then have the opportunity to decide how you will respond or how you can change the way you want to react. 

Let’s think of it this way. Suppose you need help with an anger problem. You recognize that you do not like reacting before thinking and you don’t like the feelings you have after an expression of anger. You say to your trusted friend, “I have a quick temper, and it’s damaging my relationships.” 

Your friend says to you, “Show me your quick temper. Demonstrate it to me?”

What would you say? “Well, I can’t right now. It happens suddenly.” Or “I can’t right now, I don’t have the people around me who make me angry.” 

The question is “What is the problem?” If anger, uncontrollable anger was part of your true nature, it would be present all the time. Something that comes and goes is not a part of who you were created to be. Your emotions are not you, but they can gain control over you if you do not stop and reflect upon them and if you don’t begin to understand why you react the way you do.

Instead of focusing upon the negative, your anger, focus upon the people around you. Remember they are God’s children, just as you are God’s child. Each person has their own thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Just as God, through Christ, loves you with your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, God loves the people who irritate you or pull your chain, or you get the point. Reflect upon how God loves you and responds to you.

This little added sense of self-awareness will not magically create a smile. It won’t keep you from getting angry, but it does provide you with the opportunity to respond in a more healthy and Christlike way. You can decide that being angry is not going to control your response. Once you become conscious of your emotion, it no longer has control over you.

2. Recognize who you are and the effect you have on the people around you.

You cannot control 100% of your life, but you can control how you react to the stuff you can’t control. To better react or respond to external circumstances, you must know and understand your preferences, resources, and feelings. 

Let’s think of it this way. Suppose you need some advice with several situations you are facing. Some of them are personal and some of them are professional, but all are situations in which you need and want some help. 

So, you approach your trusted friend asking for advice. Your friend listens patiently. But when your friend tries to ask questions or offer some direction, you interrupt to interject your own thoughts, beliefs, solutions, not allowing your friend to finish many sentences. 

After a while, your friend offers you a cup of tea. When pouring the tea, your friend continues pouring after the cup is full, causing it to overflow.

You say, “Stop pouring. The cup is full.”

Your friend stops pouring and says, “Today, you are too full of your own opinions. You want my help, but you have no room in your own cup to receive my advice or direction.”

Too often, we hold unconscious beliefs and opinions that make us rigid and closed-minded to learning and to expanding our awareness of the people around us. Self-awareness is knowing your preferences, resources, and feelings and being open to learn new ways of looking at the situations and circumstances in which you are living and working.

Understanding who you are and how you affect others allows you to react differently to the people around you. It is with such understanding that you can decide whether something angers or irritates you.  Please know this is not always easy, but it has a big benefit to self-awareness. 

3. Learn your emotional triggers.

When you know what triggers your reactions you are better equipped to deal with negative emotions. 

This might be the most important aspect of self-awareness.

Let’s think of it this way. What do you do when you are angry, disappointed, or not taken seriously? Do you bottle up your emotions, keep them to yourself, pushing them deep inside, until you can’t hold them any longer? It is like holding a beach ball underwater. You can push it down beneath the surface and you can hold it there. But, without a lot of effort and energy, it usually forcefully pops back up to the surface. It is the same with suppressed emotions. The emotions surface at the most unlikely times and in inappropriate ways.

Have you ever reflected upon a reaction that was not appropriate? At the time, you might not have been fully aware of what was going on with your emotions. But afterward, you thought you could have handled the situation differently. You could have known what triggered your reaction and refocused your response.

It might seem silly, but you have had your feelings hurt. You feel bad about it. You want to reach out and react. Instead, you hold on to your hurt feelings and turn the event into something bigger and nastier than it really was.

If you are not self-aware, you might lash out and explode.  Your reaction only amplifies the negativity.  Emotions, especially when expressed negatively, tend to increase in heated situations.

When you know what triggers your emotions, you can learn to control your emotions.  When you are self-aware, you are able to stop your reaction and begin to respond in more appropriate ways.

When you start to rationally question your own emotions, you are much better prepared to get rid of the negativity inside:

  • Are you truly angry at the other person?
  • Are you reacting to your own insecurities and fears?
  • Why do you need to say hurtful things? 
  • What’s in it for you? 

Self-awareness helps you to ask these questions in difficult times. This can be very challenging, but by simply being aware of your emotions and what triggers your reaction, you can improve the quality of your life and your ability to lead with courage.

Who You Are Is How You Lead

At this point, you might feel like you are in a therapy session.  One reason you might feel this way is because it is so important to you as a person and as a leader. 

This is what I want you to do this week. Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to reflect upon the situations and circumstances of the day. Reflect upon one or two of the following (no particular order): 

  • The meetings you attended,
  • The people with whom you had interaction,
  • What you have said and done throughout the day.
  • Celebrate what has gone well.
  • Give God thanks for what you have learned.
  • What could have been done differently?
  • If I had been aware of my feelings, would I have said anything differently?
  • Have I offended anyone?
  •  Who do I need to contact to express appreciation for helping me become more who I am created to be?
  •  Who do I need to contact to ask forgiveness for my lack of self-awareness?

This exercise is a powerful way to develop a healthy self-awareness. As you develop the practice, you will add your own questions to better assist you in the process. Becoming more aware of who you are and how you respond or react will help inform your path towards self-awareness and growth.

I already know it is not an easy process. Sometimes it can be painful. But you will develop the most important quality needed in leaders today. Your positive impact will live on far after you have completed your work at this time in history. 

Remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 
Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about self-awareness. This week we have a conversation with Curnell Graham. He turns self-awareness inside out and invites you to focus on God-awareness. Check out Episode 168 – Self-Awareness as God-Awareness. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

When was the last time you were excited about your next meeting? Or you had members of your board excited about anything? Most of us think of meetings as necessary to get to what we want to accomplish. So, they become necessary hoops through which we jump to make progress or to succeed.

Too often, our meetings become energy-draining and monotonous.

Recent research conducted by Harvard University found that when leaders focus on building relationships, they create conditions that lead to higher levels of commitment as well as increased accountability, hope, and satisfaction.

In building relationships, you know that people are your business. Even though you have finance meetings, programs to develop, and buildings to maintain, your focus is upon people. With that in mind, relational leaders make a shift from administering procedures to ministering to people.

Let Go of Business as Usual

Think of it this way. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus asks his listeners, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?” (Matthew 7:9).  The people entrusted to your care are asking for bread. They are looking to you for trust, compassion, stability, and hope. They are looking to you to provide opportunities to grow in their faith. Too often what they find are invitations to attend meetings. 

Long parliamentary-ordered business-as-usual meetings. 

As a relational leader, it might be time to make a shift.

Make a Shift

So, take a moment to think about it. In what area can you make a shift? Just as an example, let’s take business meetings. How could you shift the focus of most meetings from procedure to people?

Let’s do it together. When people are your focus, everything you do, as a leader, is to assist the people entrusted to your care to become who God created them to be. 

So, shift your thinking and your action.

Let’s continue with our example of business meetings. Meetings are important and necessary. But I have always thought of meetings as a means to an end and not an end in themselves. So, how do you use what you have, meetings, to develop relationships, and to assist people to thrive with the gifts, talents, and strengths they have?

Stone-like or Bread-like?

Let’s start with the current reality. Too many meetings are “stone-like” meetings. They do not take into consideration the needs or aspirations of the people attending. 

They are repetitious, incomplete, and opinion-oriented. There is a rush to judgment, with decisions being made with inadequate information, little reflection time, and no prayerful discernment. Too many meetings are cut and dried, with the real decisions having already been made. 

The people involved feel like they have little power to act or lead. At best, they feel used and powerless. At worse, they feel marginalized and useless. I am sure my assessment is a little harsh, but you get the point.

Have your goal in mind. Shift the culture of the meetings from “stonelike” to “bread-like.” Bread like meetings are focused upon images of God and the people of God in relationship with one another. Provide time to prayerfully discern God’s leading and call. Integrate inspiration with procedure so the meeting will feel more like “worship” than “meeting.”

Offer Bread 

How do you get to your goal? The following four practices will assist you in shifting from offering stones to providing bread in your meetings.  Build your agenda around these four areas. They are not in any particular order and they don’t require the same amount of time.  Sometimes one practice might be more appropriate than at other times.  What is important is, you are focusing on the faith development of the people involved.

1. Stories or Story Telling

As you get started in the meeting, ask the people attending to share with one or two people where they have experienced God over the past 24 hours, the past week, or since the last meeting. Take time to acknowledge each story and pray for the person sharing. This will help people become more aware and sensitive to God’s presence in everyday and ordinary situations and circumstances. This also gives people the opportunity to share openly and freely about their experiences of Jesus and of God.

2. Reflection or Bible Study

Before the meeting, designate someone to read scripture and to make a comment upon it. The stories from scripture, when interwoven with the lives and stories of the people, produce a spiritual center and a missional focus. This provides an opportunity to reflect and discuss scripture without having a formal bible study.  This also provides a safe place for people to share openly and freely their images of God and of God’s love.

3. Decisions or Prayerful discernment

Just as you take time to pray for one another and for the concerns of one another, take the time to prayerfully discern the decisions to be made. Use a spiritual eye rather than a rational or deductive process. This brings prayer to the center of the meeting.  This also creates the understanding that decisions made by the group, on behalf of the community, are important. Everyone is affected by the decision.

4. Future Planning or Visioning

This provides an opportunity to look ahead, to anticipate the fulfillment of trends as well as the intervention of God.  Given the reality that a board can make only a few good decisions in a year, ask the question, “What is the most important decision that we have to make this year?” Pick two or three major decisions and develop a process for consideration that includes good communication, lead time, and prayer. 

Stories, Reflection, Decisions, and Planning

It takes a little time and not everyone will like the shifts, but given time, people will begin to experience that the agenda of each meeting is grouped into stories, reflections, decisions, and planning.  As the leader, you have shifted energy-draining meetings into faith development experiences. You begin to offer bread to all who are asking for bread. 

So, what one thing will you do to begin to make the shift from “stonelike” to “bread-like” meetings? Will you have a conversation with several trusted leaders? Or maybe, you will pray and seek a plan for making the shift? Will you share this blog with friends to gain new insight and direction?

I’m sure some of you will take a step in becoming a better relational leader.  I am also sure that some of you will smile and say the district superintendent doesn’t know my people or my context. You will be right about your superintendent, but not about yourself as a relational leader. 

This week, what one thing will you do to make the shift in your life to become a relational leader? What one thing will you do to improve your relationships? 

Please know you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about relationships. Last week we talked about the four spaces you need to nurture relationships. This week, our conversation with Amy Graham focuses on nurturing the gifts God’s given you and others and what it can look like to be a relational leader. 

This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

Over the past two weeks, I have shared information about the challenges of navigating conflicting values and polarization. Last week we left off with “know your values, be honest about your context, and lead people toward your goal”. Sounds simple enough, but it is not as simple as it sounds. I asked you to reflect upon: Being vulnerable, developing self-control, being generous, and showing care. With that in mind, I want to focus on how best to navigate the challenges.  

Through a “Question and Answer” format, Sara Thomas and I want to offer some insights to help equip you to be the leader you have been created to be. We want to offer some guardrails to help you navigate the challenges (If you are joining this conversation with this blog, I encourage you to go back and read the two previous blogs, “Who You Are Is How You Lead” and “Who You Are Is How You Lead Part 2”). 

Question 1

Tim:  

Let’s get specific regarding being vulnerable. I have heard friends and colleagues say things like, “I’ve repeatedly been told by family members (and church members) that I’m wrong about wearing masks or about COVID-19. Some conversations have been hurtful. And if I’m honest, some words and insinuations come close to being hateful. You want me to be vulnerable with them?” Sara, what does it mean to be vulnerable within that context? 

Sara:

Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is agree to disagree. You may not be able to be vulnerable with your brother in law about politics or faith.  Can you practice vulnerability around your nieces and nephews? Your sibling? Parents? About work? The hobby you’re both learning?  

And one more thing, vulnerability isn’t bleeding all over people. That’s a medical emergency. Vulnerability is the emotion we feel during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. Know this: vulnerability necessitates trust. To build trust necessitates vulnerability. Where one is lacking, neither will happen. My encouragement is this: practice naming when you feel vulnerable. That’s the first step. Then take a second step.  

As I coach leaders, I often see when we’re stuck, we’re trying to address the whole challenge. Instead, ask yourself, what CAN I do? What’s the baby step, first step, or starting point to get moving? Said differently, don’t try and run the marathon before you’ve run to the corner.

Question 2a

Tim:

I have heard leaders ask the question, “When is enough, enough? How much do I have to tolerate?” I get the feeling there are times we want to just let go and give people a piece of our minds, or to let them have it. Let’s take a current example of wearing masks inside the church building. What does it mean to “develop self-control?”

Sara:

Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. So, you’re not off base in encouraging it in leaders. And, as you encouraged leaders to remember, “who they are is how they lead” you pointed to values, goals, and current reality. Say more about mask-wearing because I feel like there is a question behind the question.  

Question 2b

Tim: Well, let’s take the person or group of persons who refuse to wear a mask.

Sara: Ok, that’s where I thought you were going. But I wanted to hear it from you. 

I don’t know that any of us can say, “I am going to have self-control” and it just happens. You have self-control because it’s tied to something that is important. When it comes to disagreements about masks, as silly as it seems to some, people are getting information from different places to inform their decisions. So, in one sense, it’s complex. In another sense, it’s a simple act of compassion and care. Self-control comes into play by asking yourself, is it worth fighting over where you get your information. Or is it more important to love and care for others? If it’s so important to you to be right and that takes priority over loving others, I’d invite you to ask yourself what is your primary value? Then, invite the person with whom you’re in conversation to do the same. Then, you’ll begin to understand what’s motivating the actions. Without that, you’re going to continue to test one another’s patience and at some point, someone will likely lose self-control.  

Question 3

Sara:

I remember saying to you, “What’s the most generous interpretation you can make of this situation?” It’s a question about one aspect of building trust. Several months later, you talked about making a decision to ask that question. Because we have lots of conversations, I don’t expect everything we talk about to be acted upon. What made you embrace the above question and begin to integrate it into how you lead?   

Tim:

As leaders, we often encounter people who disagree with us, who disappoint us, and who say one thing and do another. Our tendency is to go to the worst-case scenario. Because I was going to the worst place I could go, I asked myself the question, “Is this where I begin as a follower of Jesus?” I realized the worst-case scenario was NOT the best place to start. Instead, I chose to love people as Jesus loves me. That is where I wanted to begin. As annoying as the question seemed at one point, it’s where I start now.

Sara:

So, it was a conscious decision you made to ask the question, “What’s the most generous interpretation I can make?  

Tim:  

Yes. 

Sara:

Has that question been easy to answer in the midst of disagreements and disappointments?

Tim:  

Easy? No. 

Loving? Yes. 

It’s been a helpful way to reframe what I was initially thinking and to start in a more loving place with people. It is the way I took another step toward becoming the person and the leader God created me to be.

Sara:

What’s another way you show generosity? 

Tim:  

By care and compassion. 

Sara:

What do care, and compassion look like? 

Tim: 

One way it works for me is not to dehumanize people. I don’t want to make people my enemy. If I have a disagreement with someone, I want to have a face-to-face conversation with him or her. It is in the conversation that we can find common ground and at the very least connect as humans. What I have discovered is, there are times that the care and compassion I extend to others by listening ends up being care and compassion for myself. 

Sara:

How? 

Tim: 

Well, if I make a decision that the person I’m in disagreement with is a child of God, I’m choosing to love one of God’s children. To love that person as God has loved me. At the end of the day, if I’ve responded in love, then I know I have done what I can – whether or not that person ever agrees with me. By loving, I am not only being who God created me to be, but I am modeling unselfish compassion and care. 

Your Next Step: Who You Are is How You Lead

So, how are you doing? The question and answers offered above are intended to be a guide for you as you continue to lead during a time of conflict and confusion. Remember, be clear regarding your purpose in life and love others as God in Christ has loved you. Who you are is how you lead.

Let me remind you again, you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out the LeaderCast podcast and the show notes. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. You’ll find resources and questions to guide you in living into your purpose. It’s one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021.

Who you are is how you lead. Let’s face the challenges of leadership together.  

Over the past several weeks you have been navigating the waters of conflicting values. Whether it has been the civil and political unrest, the numbers of people dying from COVID-19, or the displays of racism and white supremacy, the conflicts keep coming as angry waves in the midst of a storm. 

At best it is surreal and overwhelming.  At worst it is numbing and paralyzing.           

How do you care for people and lead during such upheaval and conflict? To answer that question, you must be clear regarding your values. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

Differentiate Yourself as a Jesus Follower

As a follower of Jesus, how do you differentiate yourself when you encounter people of different values?  To care for and lead the people entrusted to your care, you must know your values. Last week I asked you to look deep within to discover what values motivate you. 

To care for and lead the people entrusted to your care, you must be honest about your current reality. Last week I asked you to make an honest assessment of your current reality. To navigate the waters of conflicting values, you need to know yourself and know your context. This is where we stopped last week. 

So, let’s continue with naming another part of current reality. 

Know current reality. Be truthful about your context. 

Prolonged hatred leads to dehumanization. 

Dehumanization is the act of seeing a person as inferior, uncivilized, or less than human. This happens when feelings of hatred developed toward an individual become redirected toward the entire group that person belongs to.

When you see others as less than human, you rationalize violence, cruelty, and hate by comparing persons to animals. Individuals who would never murder another person find it easy to kill a “subhuman” enemy. Especially when you can shoot first and ask questions later.

When someone says “Black Lives Matter,” if you immediately want to dismiss it because you feel you are being left out or, even worse, you are elevating black persons to the same level you are, pause and check yourself.

What happened to “loving one another as I have loved you”? If you say, “Oh, that doesn’t mean everyone, only humans.” Once again, check yourself. Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Harboring Hate, Feeling Powerless

Hatred leads to a desire for revenge or to take action against a perceived threat. Some people harbor hatred for others, become energized by it, and express it through violent acts. 

I have learned that such people feel powerless. 

Rather than facing their anxiety they project it negatively upon another person or group of persons. They attach themselves to someone who they perceive has power.  Then, all in the name of power, they blindly follow the dictates of that person. To say that hatred can have you do some crazy things is an understatement.

There is little self-awareness, vulnerability, or empathy. This is the one big mistake that people motivated by hatred make. 

The power is not in strength. The power is in vulnerability.  

After all, it is the vulnerable act of Jesus dying on a cross that saves us. The power is in the new life brought about through vulnerability. Who you are is how you lead. 

Know where you are going. 

This is your mission or goal. For the sake of this article:

  • Create, equip, and resource a community of Jesus followers where radical love is practiced in acts of kindness and compassion; a community of relationships where love transcends cultural and racial division. When talking about such community and relationships, G.K. Chesterton put it this way, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” 
  • Create, equip, and resources a community of Jesus followers where poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated; where racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of relationships to all people; where love and trust will be vulnerable in the midst of fear and hatred; and where there will be peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation of adversaries.

Dr. Martin Luther King said it this way, “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men (people).” 

That sounds like a lofty goal, but it is the description of the kingdom of God. Isn’t God’s love our goal? Know your values, be honest about your context, and lead people toward the goal. 

A Few Reminders

Be vulnerable.

You have a right to protect yourself and your family. You don’t have the right to take human life. As a citizen of this country, you can stand your ground. As a citizen of the human race, you do not have the right to take a human life. Who you are is how you lead.

Develop self-control

Don’t use hurtful harmful words but helpful words, the kind that build-up and do good to those who hear them. It matters what you say and how you say it. What is on the inside will find its way to the outside. Who you are is how you lead.

Be generous

As a leader, you will encounter people who disagree with you, who disappoint you, and who say one thing and do another. Be generous in your response to persons. Considering the situation. Are they doing the best they can? How can you assist persons in becoming who they were created to be? Who you are is how you lead.

Show care

As difficult as it is, love the people around you as you have been loved. Be creative and commit yourself to be a model of unselfish compassion and service. Who you are is how you lead. 

I’ll have more to say about the above themes next week. Until then, reflect on what I’ve shared above. Know that each theme has boundaries. Knowing who you are is about defining expectations. I’ve outlined some expectations of Christian leaders in this two-part series. Next week, I’ll share more about boundaries.  

An Invitation

Please know you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. If these expectations leave you recognizing you need support to lead in this way, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to come alongside you as you deepen your understanding of courageous, faithful leadership.

Another place to begin is by listening to the LeaderCast podcast.

This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. (See Episodes 159, 160, 161 and next week, episode 162). This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

Happy New Year!

I want to start with these words for this new year, “Who you are is how you lead.” 

You are now asking, “what does that mean?” Let’s think of this way. How often have you heard someone say about a person who is happy, joy filled, clicking on all cylinders, “She was born to do this” or “He was born to do that.” Those words are often spoken about persons who are being who they were created to be. They have a purpose in who they are and how they live, work, and play.   

Focus on Your Purpose

As you step into this new year, you have the opportunity to focus upon your purpose for living, loving, and leading. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your purpose as a leader? As a parent? Or as a colleague? As a human being? 

Your purpose grows out of the essence of who you are. It is the natural flow of your strengths and talents as they are related to the people you serve and to the context in which you are living and working.  Too often people inhibit or ignore this flow, but it is always there. It is what you do because it is who you are. How it gets lived out depends on your ability to recognize it, claim it, and live into it.    

What is Your Purpose?

Contrary to what some people think, your purpose is not a list of accomplishments, education, experience, and skills you have gathered in your life. It is not a professional title, limited to your current job or assignment. Each of these things are important and might assist you in living out your purpose, but none of these things define who you are. 

Your purpose is who you were created to be. Paul came close to defining purpose in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote, “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives” (Ephesians 2:10 CEB).  You have been created for a purpose. 

In her book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, Amy Sherman writes that purpose in leadership is significantly related to leader effectiveness. She points out that purpose is found in the center of God’s priorities, personal gifts and passions, and the world’s needs. 

What is a Leader’s Purpose?

With that in mind and using Brene Brown’s definition of leadership, your purpose, as a leader, is about taking responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and processes and then developing that potential. Living out your purpose and how it relates to the people you serve transforms the world. 

My purpose is to assist you in becoming the person you are created to be. Whether you are a leader, parent, preacher, or pastor, I find great joy and satisfaction is assisting you to use your strengths and talents in the context in which you are living and working. 

So, what is your purpose? I know someone, because of who he is, naturally finds ways to affirm and encourage the people around him. He actively engages in ways to help people live into their potential.  When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, he bought coffee mugs, with these words “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” on the mugs and gave them out to the people whom he supervises. I am sure he was not trying to make a statement but was naturally offering himself in helping the people around him live into their full potential.  

So, what is your purpose? 

How are you living your purpose in relationship to the people around you and the context in which you live and work. Here are five reasons your purpose helps you become the leader you are created to be. 

Purpose motivates.

Many of us talk of what we do as our calling, as our vocation. What does that mean to you? Are you called to an institution, a business, a particular way of life, or to being who you are created to be?  These examples are not mutually exclusive, but it matters where you start. 

So, what if you lived your life, related to people, and led from being who you are created to be? Would your life, relationships, work be more creative, more satisfying, more impactful? When you pursue your work with purpose it becomes a reservoir of energy, joy, and well-being that keeps you moving forward when facing challenges and adversity. 

Purpose empowers.

Your purpose empowers you to strive for something bigger than yourself. It is not about a position in a hierarchy or about having power over people. It is about sharing and giving power to others. Just as your purpose is being who you were created to be, you assist others in becoming who they were created to be. In this way, purpose is bigger than you. It includes the people entrusted to your card.

Purpose makes you courageous and resilient.

It energizes you to take risks by facing your challenges and fears with stability and hope. It calls you to grow and to be more vulnerable, more courageous, and more resilient than you thought was possible. The ability to take risks is a key to effective leadership. It is required to lead into and through any situation. Having a bigger purpose is what motivates you to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

Purpose helps you engage others. 

When you live into your purpose and assist others to live into their purpose, you build engagement. People go the extra mile because their hearts, as well as their minds, are engaged. Effective leaders inspire action through a contagious sense of purpose. 

Purpose helps you navigate obstacles and uncertainty.

Your purpose allows you to be decisive and courageous and empathic and hopeful in service of a bigger cause. When you are living out of your purpose, you make a unique impact upon the lives of the people around you. You contribute to making the world better. It shows up in your decisions, how you face challenges, how you relate to others. However it shows up, when you identify your purpose, you are energized, and you are able to lead through whatever obstacles and uncertainty you face.   

Your Next Steps

So, as you step into this new year, here is what you do. Set aside 10 minutes to answer these questions and to do the following: 

Step 1

Answer these questions: What brings you joy in life? What do you enjoy doing that helps you come alive? What are the experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life?

Purpose comes from your heart, your intuition, and from your emotions. It moves you because you are one with who God created you to be, one with yourself, and one with the people around you.

You might have to take extra time to truly answer this question. But when you come to an understanding of your purpose, you will be blessed beyond measure.

Step 2

Take notes on your reflection. Make mental notes if you don’t write them down.

What are those experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life? Reflect upon the common themes. What are you doing? Who are you being? What strengths are you exercising? What do people seek you out for? What are the challenges you have faced? What inner resources have you developed to overcome those challenges? Who are you drawn to help? 

Step 3

What leadership legacy do you want to leave? What lasting impact do you want to make? In your family? In your work? In your life?

Reflect on and seriously consider what the ideal world would look like if you were in charge? How do you want your contributions to be remembered? A leader with purpose makes a world changing impact when he/she leads out of their purpose.

For me, a perfect world is where everyone is becoming who God created them to be in their relationships with one another. It is your sense of purpose that moves you from being a transactional leader to a transformational leader. 

Step 4

Now find a trusted friend or colleague and share with them your work. Invite them on the journey with you so you can become more the leader you have been created to be. 

Wow! That seems like a lot at the beginning of the year. But, wouldn’t it feel good to be in your sweet spot, where you are your most effective and are making your greatest impact, and at the same time living a joy filled life? It starts with becoming who you are created to be. The question is, what is your purpose? Only you know the answer.

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out our LeaderCast podcast. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

A year ago, could you have imagined that you would be doing what you are doing today? What would you have thought if someone had said to you, “this time next year your main connection with people will be over Zoom or Skype or Facetime?” 

Think about it. 

Would you have laughed at the thought of working from home while your children were attending school in the next room? And how would you have felt if you had been told that you would not be worshipping in person through Lent, on Easter Sunday, or on Christmas Eve?

Nothing is Impossible with God

Could you have envisioned not gathering in groups, not feeding people in person, or not providing face to face care for people who were sick or dying? I know this might sound silly, but I am serious in saying it, “nothing is impossible with God.”

You have faced some seemingly impossible situations over the past year. You have developed and maintained relationships through technology. You have kept yourself, your family, and others safe and healthy through a deadly pandemic. No matter how bad things looked or how impossible they seemed, you found a way through. I will say it again, “nothing is impossible with God.”

What Really Matters

You have become more the person and leader you were created to be. You have found a way to achieve the things that really matter to you. In a season of volatility and change, when things seemed impossible and unobtainable, you have dug deep for new and fresh responses. In those moments, when you felt you did not know what to, something transformed the insurmountable into moments of grace. How can this be? How will this happen? Nothing is impossible with God. 

I know it is hard to believe. We are people who think we can take care of ourselves. We rely on our own resources, strength, and power to handle most things. We have convinced ourselves that the absence of conflict and struggle means we are in alignment with God. But have you ever stopped to say, when the phone rings or the letter comes, or the crisis is too big, “nothing is impossible with God?” 

Don’t You Ever Do That Again

I know it is difficult. There once was a pastor who was asked to visit an elderly woman who had been in bed for several weeks and was near death. When he arrived at her house, one of the caregivers led him to her bedside. They talked about her life, her family, her fears, and her hopes. As their time was coming to an end, being a caring pastor, he asked the woman if he could pray for her. She said, “Yes” and then added, “Ask God to let me get up and out of this bed and get back about my life.” The pastor knew she was too sick to ever get out of bed, but because he cared for her, he prayed. He gave thanks for her life and family and he asked God to touch her body, make her well, and let her be back about the life God had created for her. He finished the prayer with, “May God bless you.” As he turned to leave, she sat up in bed, put her legs over the side, placed her feet in her slippers and said, “Let me walk you to the door.” The pastor was flabbergasted. It was unbelievable. This woman, who had been in bed for weeks, sick and near death, was up, out of bed, and walking him to the door. When the pastor got to his car, he looked up to heaven and said to God, “Don’t you ever do that to me again.” 

Do You Believe?

I know it is difficult. But the question is, do you believe that nothing is impossible with God?  That phrase is found twice in the Bible. It appears once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. The circumstances are very similar, but different. In the Old Testament it’s found in Genesis 18. An old couple named Abraham and Sarah have no children. A messenger of God comes to their tent one day and says, “You’re going to have children. You’ll conceive and have a son, and from him will come a nation, and that nation will bless the world.” Because of her old age, Sarah laughed and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” But she had the son. She named him Isaac, which means laughter, because it seemed so funny to her.

From Isaac came the nation we call Israel. Despite being enslaved, persecuted, murdered, ostracized, made fun of, unwelcome, the descendants of Isaac have given the world the basis for a moral and ethical society. The foundation of our own faith, “You should love the Lord your God with all your mind and heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” “You shall not kill; you shall not bear false witness against a neighbor; you shall not covet what your neighbor has. You shall not murder; you shall honor your marriage vows. Have no other God, have no idols, and remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” In those commandments, we have the basis for the whole Western world’s life together. It started when a messenger said to an old couple, “You’re going to have a baby and the world will be blessed.” 

Mary Heard it Too

The phrase is also found in Luke 1. The messenger came to Mary, a teenage girl in a little town in northern Israel. She is not married but promised by her family to a carpenter who lived there in Nazareth by the name of Joseph. Before they are married, the messenger says, “You’re going to have a child.” She says, “But I don’t have a husband!” Then the messenger says, “You’re going to have a child, and he will bless the world.” And Mary gave birth to a son and named him Jesus. 

In spite of the fact that he was mistreated, abandoned, made fun of, mocked, beaten, whipped, and executed, wherever he went, people’s hearts and lives were lifted. Even today, because of the impossible and improbable birth of Jesus, people are kind and generous. People who remember Jesus will repair their neighbor’s house when their own roof leaks. They’ll empty their pockets for other people’s children. They will turn the other cheek. They’ll go the second mile. They will even love their enemies. All because a messenger said, “You’re going to have a child and you’ll name him Jesus.” And Mary said, “I don’t understand it. How can this be?” And the messenger, and angel said, “Nothing is impossible with God.” 

What are you facing that seems insurmountable? If you are reading this you might be thinking, will we ever return to what we once knew? Will we ever worship together again? Will we ever sing together, shake one another’s hands, or hug one another again? 

Leading Into the Impossible

As a leader, you are caring for people who are facing impossible situations. They are asking you and themselves, “will I ever breathe again?” “Walk again?” “See my family again?” They are facing financial difficulties, or broken relationships, or unemployment, and are asking “How will I ever make it?

Let me remind you, if God can give a child to an old couple in a tent and change the world; if God can give a baby to a teenage girl and change the world, what will God do through you? I mean, why should you and I ever give up hope? Why would we ever doubt, or shrug our shoulders in despair? I have learned my lesson over the past year, and I hope you have too. “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Choosing to Offer Hope

Let’s stop and reflect for a moment. As you enter this new year, where can you offer hope and a belief for better days ahead? I’m not talking about positive thinking. I am asking you to give the gift of expectation. Look at the next year, roll up your sleeves, and begin to make it happen.

You have all it takes to see the possibilities in what seems impossible. Remember, the possibilities do not depend entirely upon you, your strength, resources, or desires.  The grace to face the insurmountable is a gift from God, for nothing is impossible with God. 

I had a friend who put it this way, “Write it over the door at your house. Write it on your mind. Write it across your heart. It will come in handy this new year. Nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with God. 

Walking With You

One more thing. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader. 
Check out LeaderCast, a podcast designed to give insights and resources to courageous leaders. Who you are is how you lead. So, let’s face what is coming together.