A Woman in Leadership

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Since being in a leadership role at my church, a question I’m frequently asked is: “What’s it like being a woman in leadership?” It almost always catches me off-guard, but I’m quickly reminded of what my role must look like from a distance.

Many days, I’m often the only one at meetings without a Y chromosome. As the first woman in my position, I had to be approved by a roomful of suits. I have an office, a title, and a team.

But I really don’t feel like a leader, to be honest. Maybe because I’m still relatively new in my role. Maybe because I was promoted from within and my co-workers are also my long-time friends. Maybe because the word “leader” seems to imply that I should know where to go, what to do, and how. I don’t.

Sometimes I get caught up in “improving my leadership skills”. I read the blogs and listen to the podcasts about “casting a vision” and “inspiring the team”. Apparently, I’m supposed to think more about “empowerment” and “innovation”. Occasionally, I take notes and make flow-charts. I set agendas and SMART goals. And eventually, I make myself sick…

Because while it might work for some, when I think too much about leading, I forget that my biggest role is to follow.

Following Jesus, really following Him with one intentional step after another, keeps me in the right order with others. Not higher or lower. You’re a follower. I’m a follower, too. Jesus is our leader. Period.

What’s it like being in leadership? It’s a natural question, but for me, it’s a dangerous mindset.

When I go to work thinking more about leading people than about loving them, I influence no one.
 
When I’m more focused on a strategy than I am on my Savior, I fail to bear His image.
 
When I insist on my innovative vision, I lose sight of the right way.

There’s another danger here. What’s it like being a woman…? 

When I go to work thinking more about representing my gender than about serving the men I work with, I discourage everyone.
 
When I’m more focused on making up for lost ground than about advancing God’s Kingdom, I get nowhere.
 
When I enter a meeting feeling inept or inferior to my male friends, I fail to bless anyone with my gifts.

I think this is the point Paul was making when he wrote so much about how men should love their wives and respect their slaves and everyone should “submit to one another” with Jesus as the ultimate head. He’s reminding us that godly leaders are willing followers. And we (men/women, slave/free, Gentile/Jew) will turn this world upside down if we all humble ourselves and let Christ lead the way.

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A woman in leadership? More like a sinner following Jesus one step at a time.

A sinner. If I listen for the implications of the question, suddenly I’m defensive. Insulted. And in no position to lead anyone in a positive direction. If I glory in an org chart or my title, suddenly I’m proud. Arrogant. And slow to submit to anyone.

Following Jesus. It requires letting go of my own agenda. I means knowing and trusting a person instead of a program, results, or my own resources. It means dying to self.

One step at a time. Some steps are strong and forward. Others are shaky stumbles. More times than I’ll admit, I’m flat on my face. Progress is mostly about trusting that His mercies are new with every step.

What’s it like? 

I’m happy to get the coffee and direct the meeting.
I unjam the copier and expect the project to be done on time.
I’m not ashamed to cry when I’m sad or belly laugh in the hallway.
I ask for help and offer advice.
I fluff my hair and speak my mind.
I carry a purse and my head high.

Not because I’m trying to keep peace or break a stereotype, but because I think that’s what Jesus calls me to do. And I’m following His lead.

Not perfectly. Not as a woman or a wanna-be man. But as me, His child. Because He loves me. And because He’s promised to make me new and bring me to a better place.

THAT’s what I’m leading with. Everything else will follow.

 And he (God the Father) put all things under his (Jesus’) feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.  Ephesians 1:22-23


Woman at desk pic by rawpixel on Unsplash 
Bible pic by  Lilian Dibbern on Unsplash 
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13 thoughts on “A Woman in Leadership

  1. Michele Morin July 16, 2018 / 6:13 am

    Thank you Karen, for sweet reasonableness that leans into the beauty and freedom of “and” and rejects the tyranny of “or.”
    I do wonder if you would enjoy reading Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (it’s been around for a while, so maybe you’ve already read it?). She focuses on leaders (but all believers, really) tending to the health of their souls while also responsible for the care and feeding of the souls of others.
    Congratulations on your new role!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Karen Brown July 16, 2018 / 6:16 am

      Sounds like a great book, Michele! I’ll check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christan Perona July 16, 2018 / 6:34 am

      I’ve never read Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, but I have read other things from Ruth Haley Barton — her blog and Sacred Rhythms. She’s a great thinker, writer, and leader. Thanks for mentioning this book — I’ll check it out, too!

      Like

  2. Christan Perona July 16, 2018 / 6:40 am

    I love your description of following Jesus: “It requires letting go of my own agenda. I means knowing and trusting a person instead of a program, results, or my own resources. It means dying to self.” It’s so hard to die to self daily even though we know it’s what we’re called to do, and it’s even what we WANT to do. But “because He loves me”, yes, I can find my identity in what He’s done for me on the cross and let go of my own agendas. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. VanessaHarrisInspires July 16, 2018 / 7:45 am

    “Not because I’m trying to keep peace or break a stereotype, but because I think that’s what Jesus calls me to do. And I’m following His lead.”

    So well put, Karen. Thank you for sharing this. I resonate with so much of what you’ve said here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amanda Lothman July 16, 2018 / 12:18 pm

    I love this statement: “A woman in leadership? More like a sinner following Jesus one step at a time.” Thanks for how you continue to bless all of us with your honest insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Clay Smith July 16, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    Thank you for leading us all so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alex Sanfilippo July 29, 2018 / 8:59 pm

    Karen,

    You have such a great perspective. I love your statement about if you are more focused on leading than loving people, then you influence no one. So good!

    If you are ever looking to guest blog, please visit us: https://dailyps.com/write-for-dailyps/ – No pressure though. I just really think you have a lot of wisdom to share.

    Like

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