Over the last three decades of teaching leadership qualities to my children and the members of American Heritage Girls, I have encountered thousands who claim they are not leaders. Many say they are “not chiefs but Indians” or “behind the scenes type of people.” These individuals believe that leaders are line leaders, always in the front, expecting others to follow. I beg to differ.
Leadership is influence.
This new definition for many changes the paradigm of the word “leader” as formally taught in traditional schools or hierarchal workplaces. With fresh understanding, suddenly the “common” man or everyman has access to an exercise regime dedicated to strengthening his/her leadership “muscle.”
I believe Jesus wants our identity to be deeply rooted in who He is. He longs for this, He gave His life for this, and He awaits us to join Him. He isthe Great Influencer.
By following Jesus’ example of leadership, we learn to lead or influence others with great humility and patience – extending grace with regularity. We learn to discover our God-given strengths and utilize them for His glory. And, as true influencers, we help others to uncover their gifts while journeying with them as they utilize their strengths for His glory.
My leadership journey began with an understanding that I attracted people to my cause and was able to motivate them to do things. This journey has been long in the making. As a child acting as a teacher in my family’s hot and sweaty garage during the summer, children would come to play “school.” This activity was sort of crazy when you think about it when just a month ago these kids could not wait to say goodbye to that institution for the freedom of swim days and swing sets. I don’t think it was my incredible academic syllabus that attracted these kids; I believe it was a God- given gift of enthusiasm and positivity that drew them in. This school was fun, this child teacher was unconventional, and we all needed something to do.
As a high school student, teachers helped me to identify strength in drama and debate (my mom and dad could have called these out too!). I was nominated to be a candidate for Girl and her City Day and was blessed to serve as Girl Mayor for the City of Cincinnati. This opportunity provided confidence that served as a platform to run for Senior Class President. Serving in that role at my all girls’ school sealed the deal for me; I was a leader, no doubt about it.
The collegiate experience started off the same – lead roles in university dramatic productions and serving as a leader in multiple clubs. However a loss of identity occurred when I moved from home and embraced “freedom”- my spiritual life waned, and my relationships were strained. I became lost in the chaos, uncertain who I was and certainly not understanding whose I was.
The vortex of college life seemed to have swallowed me whole and spit me up into a reality I had never known. Despite the pain of this season, it was here that I met my Savior and began my journey with Him. It was a new chapter as I started to learn that I was not what other people thought I was, but rather whom He claimed me to be – His love, His cherished child. Yes, He had given me strong people skills and aptitudes that allowed me to succeed according to the world’s standards. But now, as I held His hand, He wanted more – a humble, servant leader whose enthusiasm, positivity and love for Him might become infectious to those I encounter.
It is my prayer that girls understand who they are and whose they are. It is my hope that the word “leader” does not have to be in a title for them to understand their influence and impact. It is my dream that girls in American Heritage Girls make every day count and be for the glory of God.
My God-given vocation, to found and lead the American Heritage Girls, is a blessing of which I am undeserving. For girls to understand that each and every day they have the ability to lead or influence others is a vital component of the AHG program. Building future leaders to impact the world for Christ is the vocation of tens of thousands of adult mentors within the American Heritage Girls Ministry. Local churches partner with AHG to make this vision a reality.
As a leader and influencer, I pray that I lean into Him every day for strength and wisdom, for this is the only way the yoke can be carried, and the mission accomplished.
*This blog post originally appeared on the Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) blog. The original post can be found here.