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When I was nine, my best friend was a horse. I went to my riding lessons once a week, and to the best of my belief, "Thunder," the palomino, was as excited to see me as I was to see him. For most of my younger years, I never imagined myself as a leader of people. After all, I was more comfortable talking to horses. I didn't realize until later that picking out hooves and tugging on lead ropes taught me many of my first leadership lessons. The most important of those lessons was that it doesn't matter how "big" your influence is or where you begin, it’s about your attentiveness and choices. So let's look at the choices that every one of us can make to embrace our inner leader.
As leaders, we have something to contribute, along with others! That lesson is one that I gradually learned through experience, and honestly, am still learning. At the age of six, I wrote my first book. It was called "The Mystery Horse," and it was a fascinating tale of a magical horse and her human friend. That set the tone for the next ten years of my life. I wrote many more horse-themed stories and dreamt about my future career as an author. The problem? One day I realized that sitting alone and writing stories didn't sound all that satisfying. What was I missing? When I worked with horses, not only did I communicate what I wanted to do, but I also enjoyed the ability to read their signals and respond to their feedback. I started to wonder if maybe I was capable of making that same impact with people. And thus began my continuous journey of discovery. I now realize that I want connection at the center of my life. That doesn't mean I need to always be around people, but I strive to connect with the world in ways that include a give and take. I believe this is the first step to leadership. I may not have an entourage of people who follow me, but I want to share my voice in the areas people need, and I want to help others share their voices too!
When we think of collaboration, we often think of it as an easily attainable goal when multiple parties take equal responsibility. However, spend five minutes on a group project at school, and you’ll realize that sometimes we need to step up as leaders when no one else does. A leader isn't always "the boss," a leader is someone who takes the initiative to bring people together. At the heart of it, leadership is about service. Good leaders don't ask, "What can I get people to do for me?" Instead, they ask, "What can I do for people?" So when the need for collaboration is present, a leader helps others see where they can grow. We usually picture leaders as the ones who call the shots, but the reality is that a big part of leadership is compromise. We don't impact others by fulfilling our own agendas. Jesus is the greatest leader we can look to as an example of this. He led many people while He walked the earth, and He leads countless hearts now. Yet, Jesus never led for His own benefit. He changed lives because He gave to the lost. When we follow Him, we don’t look down on our neighbors; we make an effort to lift each other up. That is how we create influence to encourage people toward a common cause.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Mark 10:45
Consistency is something I have struggled with as an adult. I always have my eye on the big picture, but consistency requires “small picture” vision. We need ambitious goals to move us forward, and at the same time, we need to focus on the steps along the way. I used to think that I should jump into my ambitions head-on and then find ways to lead others after I established my goals, but that was all backward. We don't succeed when we jump to the finish line. We need to practice leadership in our daily lives to build a foundation for each leap so we don't jump forward alone. And the very first habit we need to form is an acceptance of our authentic selves. Our identity is in God, and He wants us to show the world who He is. If you aren't sure where to start, set a time frame for yourself and commit to a week, a month, or several months where you will purposefully share your real self every day. You can reach out through work, friendship, or new experiences. After a while, you will find yourself more receptive to the areas you can apply your genuine gifts. Whether you're young, old, inexperienced, outgoing, or introverted, you can lead through the way you live your life.
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.