The Label Of Leadership

And the expectations we place on ourselves and others.


I’ve been there, on both sides of the fence. On the receiving end of scrutiny and on the giving end of judgement.

Everyone has a model of what leadership means to them. And we’re never short of vocal when leadership (or lack of) in any area of our lives fail to meet up to our perceived expectations of the role.

It is easy to sit in the seat of finding fault and/or giving constructive criticism. But never when it’s our turn to stand on the pedestal, head and shoulder above the rest, with arms wide open to say: shoot me.

I used to think I was a leader. That was more than a decade ago when I was a smarty pants tattle-tale in school. Some years, many bruises, reminders of my blind spots, gender, and more hurtful words than I care to remember later, I have raised my white flag of defeat.

With many sighs of pained surrender, I have picked up and put down the mantle of leadership many times. Each time I would take it on with trepidation. Because my past haunts me, I spend far too much time on the roller coaster of doubt. I exist in the perpetual fear that I would shamefully have to step down or be removed. And every time I have to tap out, it feels almost prophetic.

Every new role I take brings me face to face with the weaknesses I fight hard to bury — too sharp with my words, too #nofilter, too direct, too disrespectful, too emotional, too strong, too focused on results, too much of a workaholic, too perfectionist. “You’re a woman, your career doesn’t matter as much as the men.”

If I wanted to continue listing all the accusations that have been levelled at me at one point in time or another, it would never end.

But, over time, the gripping fear has dulled to a more knowing acceptance.

Yes, to some degree, I am still all of the above.

But as the author of one of my favourite books on leadership, Perry Noble, writes in “The Most Excellent Way To Lead”:

“Almost every leader falls into seasons of discouragement, and if we don’t put those doubts to rest, they can cripple us from moving forward. 

The leadership pressures I face drive me to this verse in Psalm 23:6:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

No matter how much pressure I’m experiencing, His love will follow me almost the days of my life — even the bad ones. 

In a world that highlights failures, flops and fumbles, it’s awesome to know that my circumstances don’t alter God’s character. He is still for me, and I can find my confidence in His presence, not in my own abilities.”

A good friend said to me the other day, “If not for our weaknesses, would we still remember to turn to God in time of need?”

Indeed. What need would we have to seek Him if our lives were already perfectly stitched together?

“Strength doesn’t mean never having to ask for help or admit you made a mistake; strength is realising that our weaknesses are actually someone else’s strength.
When it comes to vulnerability, we must make a decision: are we called to lead or to win a popularity contest?

Don’t let your pride keep you from learning from people who are smarter than you. It’s okay to not feel strong; however, it’s not okay to pretend to have it all together.”

(Again, from The Most Excellent Way To Lead by Perry Noble)

When we’re feeling terrible about ourselves, the mistakes we’ve made, the sting of failure when our blindspots are pointed out, when people express their disappointment in us, when we feel overwhelmed by guilt and lack, it is so, so hard to not take the weight upon our own shoulders and let it eat away at every inch of our self-worth.

But it is precisely in that moment that we make a choice: Is my worth going to be measured by the meagre offerings of my humanness, or can I believe, through the sting that my flesh is experiencing, that my worth is no longer found in myself, but instead, tied to the One who died so I could have His value?

We find it so hard to love ourselves when we fail. And some of us are especially devastating on ourselves when we fall short (especially women). But yet there is One who already loved us so much. In spite of knowing exactly how we were going to turn out, He already found us lovable and valuable enough to die for. Not only that, He didn’t do it with any expectation that we now have to pay Him back.

Knowing precisely what weaknesses would create our biggest handicaps, He still chose us. He still appointed us. He still put the mantle in our hands and said, I believe in you, and as you believe in Me, will you let Me be enough for every moment you are not enough for yourself and everyone else?

God didn’t make a mistake when He chose you to fill this role, in this season, in this time. It’s not even just for the people you lead, but because He loves you and wants you to take that journey to trust Him no matter what the world in front of your eyes looks like.

Will you trust Him today, even with the reminders from the devil, and sometimes, even friends and loved ones, that you are inadequate?

It is okay to be not enough. Because He is always going to be enough for you (and me).

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