The other weekend I ran into a guy (literally) who had stopped short to turn around as we followed the masses out of a church sanctuary. "Sorry," he said, looking disheartened and eying the crowd. "I was supposed to have a group following me."
"No problem," I laughed. "'Nobody behind me' is the story of my life….."
And it really is. I can't tell you the number of times in my life as a leader, I've look around—amazed—that for once people actually sometimes follow me. Because it certainly wasn't always the case.
Growing up, I was never the kid who always had some great thing going, the girl everyone looked to to start the fun. Instead, I was the sort to shyly suggest a game or activity and have everyone go, "Nah…. Let's play this instead!" I wasn't on student council in high school, and I was not the social go-to person. And in college, I sort of dug into my studies (and—okay—a bit of socializing) and didn't lead anything.
The only inklings I had through much of my early life that I might have some sort of leader-like gifts were when I would write. Apparently, I always had a knack for "persuasive" writing—and was on more than one occasion deemed a "thought leader" by teachers and professors. Not bad, but certainly not the same as a leader leader. At least not in my mind.
But when I entered the workforce something changed. I suppose because I was in a profession—magazine editing—where the thought leaders WERE the leader leaders that suddenly people began to call out and encourage my leadership gifts. I was passed batons—if you will—as others moved up and onward, and people began to look to me as a leader. Suddenly, I'd suggest something and instead of "Nah…." I'd get a "Great!" or at least a "Not bad, but what if we…."
As others affirmed my gifts, it opened my eyes and my heart to other ways I felt the Spirit prompting to use my "new found" gifts: in ministry, in community, in my family. Today, I don't hesitate to call myself a leader—even though sometimes it still shocks me. That a shy girl who preferred hiding behind words could grow up to lead amazes me. Especially when I end up with a group following me.
Sorry if I've rambled, but this little walk down "Journey into Leadership" Lane (that I first did after I passed the guy I bumped in to) has sparked a couple different desires. The first is for us women leaders—especially those of us in ministry—to call each other out in our gifts and to affirm abundantly the gifts we see at work in others. Because so often leaders are gifted in ways that might not fit perfectly the image of a leader leader.