I’m Sorry but WHAT?! (things I’m learning about leadership)

Taras Shevchenko overlooking the university
A statue of Taras Shevchenko overlooking the university

Do you ever sit back and wonder, “How in the world did I get here?!?!”

I had one of those moments today.

Walking home from our English ministry team meeting I found myself lost in the maze of just what brought me to this place doing what I do. Maybe to add a little clarity I was specifically thinking something along the lines of …

Okay let me get this straight in my brain. I have been given full responsibility for all of our CCX interactions with Shevchenko University, which has 20,000 students and is a top university. Furthermore, we have various events open to all students of any university that I am part of planning and implementing. I have a student that I am helping disciple and another than I am talking to about possibilities. I am planning a Bible study that doesn’t have a curriculum or plan some great teacher came up with, but just one put on my heart that I am not even sure how to actually carry out. Oh yeah and I was just asked to be an administrator for an International Student Conference that we have never tried to do before. WHAT?!?!?!?!

In the actual conversation that took place in my head there may have been more question marks and exclamation points.

The point isn’t how chaotically insane the next few months will be, however if that compels you to pray more for me and the ministry then, by all means, take note of my crazy schedule. (I’ll even send you a copy of it if you need a visual) My point is that I came to this country in January as someone who hated to be seen a leader… of anything.

Leadership has always made me want to turn and run. I don’t want to be in charge. Being in front of people, having all these questions and critiques and expectations, uh uh no thank you! You can keep it and I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines.

However, it seems in a rather short period of time I have landed myself right in the middle of a huge pile of responsibilities, many which leave me trembling nervously as I squeak out a faint “umm ok”. Talk about a big coat to grow into!

But I’m learning.

  1. I’m learning that often others see potential in you that you cannot see yourself. If those above me didn’t believe I could do it well (or learn to) then they wouldn’t entrust such precious people to me. You need to surround yourself with leadership that can see what you cannot see in yourself and who will then challenge you.
  2. I’m learning that there’s grace. It is okay to mess up sometimes. Whoa! (Remind me of that in a few weeks after I’ve tripped a few times.) It’s only failure if you don’t get back up. And my teammates and the students are a lot easier on me than I am most of the time.
  3. I’m learning that my life is not my own. Sure I’ve been a Christian for a while. I’ve heard it. Lately it has been constantly echoing in my brain that this life isn’t mine. I get up early on Sunday mornings when I would rather sleep because God has gifted me musically and I have the honor to help lead His children in a time of corporate worship. I sit up until 2 a.m. because I am creating necessary plans to help our students have fun, build relationships with us and learn a little English. I endure crowded public transportation and frustrating language barriers to meet up with students one on one. It isn’t because I’m great or some saint, but it is because I’m learning that it just isn’t about me. Now if I can just get to the place where my alarm rings on Sundays at 5:45 a.m. and I don’t complain!
  4. I’m learning that leadership is a process. There are natural born leaders in the world, but even they have to hone their skills and talent. For the rest of us who get sweaty palms at the thought of standing in front of a crowd or who cringe when asked to make a decision of any kind, it takes time but it is possible.

Maybe one of the best pieces of advice that I was given on leadership came from Seth Barnes, founder of Adventures in Missions. After I returned from the World Race I took part in a two week project to help create a plan to realizing the dreams God had placed on your heart. In the midst of the project I was incredibly frustrated, to the point of tears and wanting to leave. Everyone else seemed to easily take to the charts and boxes and tools we were given to help us, but I just couldn’t do it. It was like everything in me resisted those straight lines and grids. I was an office administrator before the WR… for crying out loud I could do a schedule and charts!!

Standing in the kitchen one evening after explaining my frustrations to Seth and my fears that I just wasn’t leader material like all these other participants, he looked at me and said, “They’re just tools. If the tool doesn’t work for you then find a tool that does. You don’t have to do it the way everyone else does. We are all leaders Pridge, some just lead in different ways.

I still want to leap out the door when someone puts me in charge of something. I still have knees that knock together whenever I have to stand in front of the group and speak. But as I look around I see people following me… I am, in fact, a leader.

And so are you.

Who are you leading? What has leadership taught you? How do you feel you lead best?

2011-2012 student leaders
The CCX staff and student leaders

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