Who Quit and Made You a Leader?

Leadership is a word that everybody seems to be talking about these days. I even heard someone recently make the comment, “It seems like, all of a sudden, everyone’s a leadership ‘expert.’” So while chewing on that comment, I even had to ask myself, what constitutes a leader? What makes someone qualified to talk about leadership?

In order to answer those questions, we first need to put into perspective what leadership really is. To most people, leadership is seen as a position or title (i.e. a CEO, VP, manager, supervisor, pastor, etc.). To others, leadership is human nature. It’s something that doesn’t require a title or high-ranking position in a business or church. Whichever way you look at it, leadership involves a following. A leader influences, encourages, inspires, and guides a group of followers toward a goal or destination.

As I put myself into this equation, something became very clear to me: I’ve been a leader all my life. To clarify—No, I’ve never been a corporate CEO, executive pastor, company vice-president, or even a department manager. But I’ve always been a leader. As for my qualifications, well…here’s a bit of my “leadership resume”:

Infanthood—My mom and dad can make a pretty good case that I was influencing and “inspiring” people from my first moments in the world. (I’m having to just take their word for it since my cognitive skills don’t allow me to remember that stage in life.)

Kindergarten—I was chosen often to be the class “leader.” Responsibilities included leading the pack in a straight line up and down the hallways of York Elementary (No, the school was not named after me…ha!) and getting to sit at the special “leader’s desk.”

Elementary School—I was president/vice-president of the 4-H club for a few years. I represented my class/school at community academic and talent competitions. I “competed” for the highest grades, always striving to be better. I even held the honor of 8th grade valedictorian (gotta love small schools).

High School—I kicked my leadership passion into high gear, holding several president/vice-president titles (Class of ‘98, Beta club, Christian club, student council, etc.). I had the honor of representing York Institute (yes, it’s a high school) on various speaking and performing engagements.

Youth Group/Church—I often led the pack when it came to engaging in various Bible study or church activities. I was blessed to have the type of personality that naturally meshed with all kinds of people and could easily invite others to be a part of ministry activities.

College—I once again held a class office and soon became manager of the campus ministry choir. In one of my many college jobs, I was quickly promoted to being a staff trainer (where I learned that I love leading/training/guiding people).

Career—In every job I’ve held, I’ve been blessed with multiple opportunities for advancement and great managers who have set me up for success. I haven’t quite reached that “executive” level status yet, but I continually find ways to be a silent force wherever I’m serving. As a former youth pastor, I saw the fruit of my students who trusted in me to lead them well. That was affirmation to my leadership. When I write an article or a blog, I’m always encouraged by the amount of people who encourage me to continue. Once again, affirmation to my leadership. As I continue to invest myself in my current role by going beyond my job description, I’m continually affirmed in my leadership by the support and following of others who seem to notice.

Let me stress one thing here: This is not a “brag fest,” but rather an example of how I’ve been equipped for leadership from the very beginning of my time on earth. It’s more than titles. It’s more than being “selected” or “chosen” for a role, but it’s both an attitude and a passion that keeps me constantly craving to be the best I can be for others (and ultimately, for my Creator).

In Scripture, some of the best leaders weren’t the most highly skilled. They often didn’t have any leadership experience at all. But God used them as they were. And He used them as they were willing. In modern-day life, some of the best leaders don’t have the most prestigious career resumes. In fact, if we were to really get down to the heart of things, many individuals with high-ranking titles or fancy resumes aren’t the best leaders. But ultimately, genuine leaders can be found where the followers are.

So am I qualified to give leadership advice? Maybe not from a CEO perspective, but as someone who’s been leading by nature and passion all his life…YES!

How about you? What does your lifetime leadership “resume” look like? Who follows you? Who gives you affirmation in your leadership?