"You did such a great job. I have big shoes to fill!"
My words, meant to compliment, betrayed how intimidated I felt. My predecessor was as good a leader as her reputation boasted. As she slid the mantle of leadership from her shoulders to mine, I simply knew I could never lead as well as she did.
Too often as leaders, we spend our effort trying to fit into someone else's shoes. We strive to live up to the high standards of our predecessors, exceed the expectations of those around us, and meet our own dreamed-up ideals.
But the most effective leaders learn to wear their own shoes. They embrace their own personalities, operate out of their strengths, and learn to grow as leaders.
Embrace your own personality. I have a friend who's fun in every sense of the word. She's mature and deep, but she makes life entertaining and comical. Her delightful way draws people to herself and to the Lord. Her fun-ness is a magnet and I love it.
But I can't copy it. When I try to break the ice with a crazy game, it feels phony instead of fun. When I buy gag gifts for those I lead, they end up being lame instead of lighthearted.
I'm a melancholy leader, contemplative and reflective. I admit I wish I weren't so serious, and from time to time I try to wear my friend's fun personality. But anytime I've tried to wear her shoes, I've fallen flat.
Instead, I'm learning to embrace the temperament God's given me, becoming more comfortable in my own shoes. Simply acknowledging my own disposition, finding its benefits, and resting in the fact that it actually makes me more beautiful has helped diffuse the desire to wear someone else's shoes.
Dance in your strength. My favorite shoes are a pair of black pumps with subtle pleating on the side and a practical heel height. They are cute and comfortable. I wear them with everything, because I'm confident, relaxed, and full of life when I'm in those shoes. When I have those shoes on, I'm not thinking about my shoes, I'm thinking about living life.
In the same way, when I lead in my strengths, I don't need to think and double-check that I'm doing things right. I'm just "on." What's challenging to others comes naturally to me. I leave work energized and people around me are motivated to do their best. My leadership and influence bring joy and excitement, and it's apparent to everyone.
Fully embracing your God-given strengths is like puttin' on your dancing shoes! You discover the thrill of doing exactly what you've been created to do. As you live out your strengths, you begin to find your groove and instinctively move to the rhythms of leadership.