My friend recently asked me to share my wisdom on what it means to be a leader, and how to grow as a leader. Her question made me do one of those double takes, where you look behind you to see who the person is really addressing. Me? A leader? I have spent the last 25 years of my life as a stay-at-home mom, not climbing the corporate ladder.
I’m not a leader.
I’m a laundry doer, taxi driver, people feeder, grocery shopper, dog walker.
But I’m not a leader. At least not the one defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
This idea of leadership hung in my mind, though, and made me probe a little deeper into the hats I have worn in the past 25 years. True, I made meals, shopped and drove kids around. But there were also the moments where my daughter and her friends would sit at the counter talking while I made cookies, while I steered the conversation toward positive ways to handle their problems. Or moments at the grocery store where I chose to respond to the sour-faced clerk in a way that made her smile, and the people around me witnessed a different way to respond. Or the times I would snap at my husband and need to come ask for forgiveness a few minutes later, even when I was still ticked off.
Hmm. Maybe I have been a leader.
Because, truly, isn’t leadership just taking the hand of the people in our sphere of influence and guiding them in the right direction? I may not have had a corner office and a staff, but I certainly had people in my life. People who were shaped and molded by the way I behaved. That, my friends, is leadership. Believe it or not, many of today’s most famous business leaders credit their mother for their success. This Forbes article shares stories from people like Bill Gates who gained inspiration and realized their potential from their mothers.
So back to my friend and her question. I’m willing to concede that I have been a leader. But how have I grown in my leadership over the past 25 years? Funny, the answer is counter-intuitive.
If leadership is the act of guiding the people around me, what better way to do that than modeling the characteristics of Jesus? Jesus, who though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Jesus didn’t power-up, he didn’t boss people around, he didn’t force behavior change.
He modeled humility.
The question then, regarding my leadership, is not how have I GROWN, but how have I become SMALLER? The apostle Paul puts it this way: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:3-5).
So, the next time someone asks me about leadership, I think I’ll still do that double take and look behind me. And that’s where I’ll picture Jesus standing, reaching out to take my hand. That will remind to treat the people around me with humility, to put them above myself, to become smaller. And maybe they will follow my lead and do the same.
If you’re anything like Andrea and have moments where you question your position to lead, think again. Whether you’re a father, mother, wife, husband, brother, sister, friend, aunt, uncle or grandparent, you’re leading someone in your life. And that person is influenced by your leadership. Join us for our next Leadership Gathering event on Aug. 28 at the Troy campus. Register Now.