At Gifted for Leadership, we're all about encouraging women to understand that God has gifted many of us specifically for leadership and that if we have that gift it's not really our choice whether or not we use it; it's just a matter of where and how and whether we put it to good use. How has God called you to use the leadership gifts he has given you?
Like many women, I was a bit of a reluctant leader. I have a lot of ideas but I wasn't used to being the person who was looked to. Over time, God very gently called me, through the validation of community where people were giving voice to how my input was helping either the organization or their lives specifically. People were coming to me and saying, "Why are you not stepping out? Everyone is looking to you for guidance in this scenario and yet you're not stepping up." So it took a bit of prodding from the community.
Eventually I did recognize God's part in that. And the more I stepped into things, the more validated by my involvement it became. So it's been a reluctant thing, but over time God has continued to bring opportunities my way that I probably wouldn't have pursued but I knew it was obedience to take.
Some of what you described is pretty common for women leaders. It's good for all of us to hear someone describe our own experiences.
Research has identified that one of the ways women are different from men is that they have to feel that they're invited in. They're not likely to insert themselves, whereas in a mostly male leadership culture, guys just expect that of each other. If you have something to offer, then for heaven's sake don't sit around waiting for somebody to say something. Get off the bench and go do it.
That is apparently a gender issue, whether it's socialized or not. Certainly we can come up with examples of men and women who don't default to that. But once I knew God was inviting me to it, whether or not the men or women around me were, that was all I needed. But I did need to know that God was inviting me in.
Primarily how are you using your leadership gifts now?
It has changed a lot. I started Soul Care-ish things as early as 1998, and that was just a dream to help people learn how to care for their souls. Most of what I was doing at that point was coalescing great resources, helping artists and writers give voice to things that would help people. It was kind of vague and ill-defined—a big, huge vision, but mostly a dream. Over time, as doors have opened, God has used me to be entrepreneurial to try things that nobody else would do and others would think were crazy. So it was very independent. Not fully isolated by any stretch, but very independent. Then I would get invited again into some things that were more organizational, like serving on a small elder team and finding my voice amidst the other leaders there, and loving that and seeing the fruit of the decisions we made together. Then on the staff at Willow Creek, in a structural role, a system, and having to adapt to influence with almost no authority. That took me to a kind of leadership that had to be more vision-oriented than structural.