Rethink Influence

If you were invited to be the leader of a small group at church or a task force at work, how would you respond? For some, the immediate response would be, “Oh no, I can’t do that; I’m not a leader!” Others might say, “Let me think [or pray] about it” and then come back with a similar response. Only on a rare occasion might someone respond immediately with “Wow! Really? I’d love to do that! Thanks for asking.”

Taylor Field reminds us in his book Upside Down Leadership: Rethinking Influence and Success that leadership is the ability to influence others. Regardless of how we respond to leadership opportunities, the truth is we all have the power to influence others. Think about the places we influence everyday: the decisions made in our families, our influence over policies when we go to the polls and vote, and the impact of our words each time we praise or tear down a friend or family member. All of these actions influence others and often reveal our ability—or lack of ability—to lead as we influence the world around us.

I have been a leader in WMU for many years—officially by title and unofficially as I have influenced others for the cause of missions. Sometimes I have led with joy and success and other times with a deep sense of foreboding and failure. It is all a part of the journey to leadership maturity, and both extremes are necessary to reach a level of success. Leadership is not for those unwilling to experience the extremes. You can’t have one without the other. So when someone says, “Oh no, I can’t do that; I’m not a leader!” that person avoids one but denies herself the joy of seeing God at work when she perseveres and is successful. Some of my greatest worship experiences have come after a time when I truly knew I did not have the wisdom nor the strength to lead in a given situation. I was forced to fall on my knees and ask for God’s intervention, giving Him complete control of the situation.

I realize many of you reading my column are serving as great missions leaders. I also know you understand exactly what I am trying to communicate about the ups and downs of leadership. We keep on striving because we know with God’s help, we can fulfill His call to influence others for Christ and His mission. Thank you and know that I am praying for you.

But I suspect some of you may feel you aren’t a leader. You would rather stay in the background and serve others. Guess what? You are the best leader already by your example. And with encouragement from seasoned leaders, you can move from behind the scenes to the forefront. The next time someone asks, “Will you lead this group?” I hope you will pause, pray, and, if you see this as an opportunity to serve in a new way, say “Yes!” with joy.

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