In 2001 at the end of my first year as executive director for national WMU, I wrote an article for our magazines about my experience after one year in office. It had been a year of great change for me personally—job changes for my husband and me, a move that required selling and buying a house, helping both our children graduate from higher education experiences, and a wedding for our daughter. What a first year on the job! And that list doesn’t include all the changes at national WMU as it embraced me as its new leader.
As I reflect upon 16 years of service in this role, it is interesting to note each “lesson learned” I identified in the 2001 article I still believe to be true today. So what were my reflections on leadership at the end of year one?
1. You can never overcommunicate your message.
2. Relationships are paramount for success.
3. Leadership means serving others by enabling them to serve.
4. Listen, listen, listen, and then you have the right to speak.
5. Most of all, in our weakness, God is most clearly seen and His will accomplished.
Communicating God’s call to engage people in missions continues to be front and center of all we do at WMU. We cannot overcommunicate the importance of the Great Commission to be lived out in our churches and as individuals.
For any measure of success in life, relationships are key. Building relationships with missions advocates takes time and patience, but it remains vitally important.
The words servant and leader are paired for a reason; it follows the biblical example of Jesus, our greatest model of leadership. If a leader seeks to only advance a personal agenda and not serve others, then that is not modeling the kind of leadership Jesus has called us to and missions will fail.
Good leaders learn to listen first, then speak . . . always focused on the truth of the gospel and speaking in love. We earn the right to lead when we understand the people we are called to guide and the work we have been challenged to perform. Listen first, then speak.
But the greatest lesson learned at the end of one year is even more acutely felt today. In my weakness, God is made strong. The less I focus on my needs and situation and look to Him for His will, the more clearly I am able to see His plan and allow His will to be accomplished.
Just as we forged a new path when I became the executive director, let’s look to the future with a new leader God is preparing. The 2001 article closed with a passage of Scripture from Philippians 3:13b–14 (NASB). Paul said, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s join together praying for our new leader, reaching forward to new ways of accomplishing our missions purpose.