We Are All Leaders
By Michele Snyder
Each of us is a natural-born leader, whether or not we’d like to be.
If you want to know who is leading you, who is responsible for every victory in your life and every failure, go to a mirror and take a good look at yourself. You are your leader. Leadership is an innate quality, so whether we realise it or not, we are all “Natural Born Leaders”. There is not a moment that goes by that you are not leading yourself. If you have a family, you are a leader. If you manage employees at your job, you are a leader. You might even be somewhat of a leader online if you post your thoughts for others to see.
To lead yourself and others well, you must know who you are, and that the Divine furiously loves you. Your self-worth can’t come from something that you can misplace or be taken away by someone else. Leading requires a sense of self-worth. Give grace to yourself because the best leaders act with compassion and empathy.
Great leaders have confidence and integrity. They know when and how to apologize; they exercise humility. They want to lift people up and not shoot them down. They see the big picture and communicate it to others well and with passion. A good leader has learned to lead themselves well first. They have self-control. They have battled the inner child and “shadow self,” and with that, found maturity and balance. There is still always a struggle for that balance, but they will find it in almost all situations. Leadership is not about acquiring a position; it’s more about influence. You must lead yourself well, or you’ll never lead anyone else anywhere worth going.
Parental Style Leadership
If we are parents, we usually lead our children as we do ourselves. We may try to teach our children everything that we believe to be right, but they will learn most by our example. They will emulate it for good or bad. It often seems that they pick up on the wrong things more frequently. However, there are times when they rise above what we’ve shown them. Sometimes, they end up fighting the same battles that we do. They’ve watched us closely since we are their leaders. We must get to know them and adapt our parenting to their personality and significant needs; not just childish desires, but real human needs according to who they are, as a good leader would do in other areas.
As parents, we typically fall into two categories, passive and authoritarian. Neither way works in the long term since they don’t help children make decisions and to live with the consequences of their actions. The authoritarian is usually non-relational and cold, often dictating what the child must precisely do, say, and think. They manage their children by relying on unquestioning obedience. With this non-relational style, the child will often struggle to feel loved since every aspect of their lives is being managed and controlled. A passive parent, on the other hand, will give their children pretty much whatever they want to make them happy. It is the easier road to go at first, but over time creates a monster who will come out whenever they don’t get what they want.
Fortunately, there is a third category. A parent who is a good leader of their children will strive to be an authoritative vs. authoritarian or passive parent. The authoritative style of parenting is relational, warm and leads with love. It helps the child learn from their mistakes and doesn’t demand obedience out of fear, but instead trains the child by natural consequences while maintaining a calm and gracious attitude. This style is the most difficult to master, but over time will be the most beneficial to both the parent and the child’s well-being.
A Mindset of Leading vs. Management
If we are managers at our work, our goal should be to lead and not micro-manage. Great leaders transcend management. Managers are often task-oriented and focus on completing short term goals. They are not visionaries. Unhealthy managers will use their position of power to control and achieve short term results. They can be more interested in being right rather than doing what’s right. A micromanaging, demanding boss will sometimes stifle and belittle their employees. They want results, and they will do whatever it takes to get them, often in a cut-throat demeaning way. They fail to see others’ true worth. They may regard something in their employees as a weakness when it is actually a strength.
I remember a former boss telling me that I was not motivated by money. She was undoubtedly correct. I am motivated by connection and relationships. Therefore, kindness and compassion go a long way with me. However, a nit-picky, non-relational, self-obsessed, self-serving, arrogant boss would only motivate me to do one thing: QUIT! People aren’t robots. They are relational, and desire and need more out of life than just money to buy objects. They desire fulfilment, a sense of self-worth and accomplishment, and a leader who can inspire them, motivate them and help them to accomplish these things. These things will result in achieving much greater success in the end.
Unfortunately, bad management doesn’t only exist in the workplace. It is very prevalent in the church as well. I can relate to this since I spent many years in churches with a Reformed Calvinistic theology. There were clear standards and not much room at all for questioning. You turned off your brain, zipped up your lips and got with the program if you wanted to survive. There are many instances that I can recall where a leader was brought in for discipline because they discussed a view held by others outside the church. The most unbelievable thing is that they were disciplined for merely talking about the beliefs even if they didn’t condone them! I would label this type of leadership as not just unhealthy but also toxic.
In a sovereignty minded church, the rules are apparent. God submits to God’s self, Christ to God, men to Christ, women to men and children to parents. One church I was in plainly told the women that they were free to teach the children in the church up until middle school age. At that point they were only to teach the other females. In that church, women were not only subject to their husbands, but also to all men, which included pubescent middle school boys! That didn’t sit well with me. Nor did when the pastor at that very same church yelled at the entire congregation. Baptisms were scheduled for later that evening, and he was agitated because not everyone showed up to baptisms. He ridiculed anyone who wasn’t coming to witness them because we were a church family and should behave as such. Don’t just “look at the pretty leaves on the trees” he screamed! It was the autumn season, a favorite of many, here in the Midwest. In my opinion, he was not just a toxic leader but also a bully.
These leaders feel superior. They dominate and control with guilt trips and manipulation. They fool others and even themselves into thinking that they do it all for God and the betterment of the church. However, it is usually all about them. They are quite insecure individuals whose lives are a facade. These toxic leaders have an inflated sense of superiority that in some cases sadly stems from an unhealthy understanding of God. No healthy individual wants to be controlled or abused. A healthy person wants to be free to be who God made them and use the gifts that God bestowed upon them. The creator wants us in unity, sharing our unique gifts, lifting each other; and not holding each other down in jealousy and strife.
A healthy leader will see the strengths of others’ individuality and does not feel threatened by it. They use their influence to motivate further and become inspired themselves. They empty themselves and serve others. They are sometimes even able to pull out inner gifts of people that they never knew existed. They encourage, inspire, are trustworthy and have integrity. A good leader can make you feel alive since you are free to dream and be yourself. Good leaders have a dream, a vision, and they believe in it with great passion. They motivate others to believe in it too. They magnify people’s strengths, not just point out their weaknesses. They serve and do not look to be served as if they are above others. They know who they are, so it doesn’t intimidate them to get their hands dirty. They wash others’ feet when needed as Christ did as described in the Holy Bible. He could influence the seas to cease raging, yet was more than willing to get down in the dirt for others.
Healthy leaders know how and when to apologize. They have integrity and are excellent communicators. There is a confident strength about them. They don’t look to others to fulfil a need that’s lacking within themselves. They don’t use people to climb the ladder, but rather, they inspire others even as they are about to give up and lose all hope.
Trustworthy leaders have a healthy foundation of love that enables them to lead well. If you want to lead, go to the mirror first, know that the Divine furiously loves you. You are equipped with everything you need to be a good leader. Step out of the shadow, be your true self and help others. Be a leader.
Michele Snyder is the host of The Redheaded Ragamuffin Podcast. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and two children. She works from home and has studied theology for over 20 years. You can contact her at theredheadededragamuffin.com. She would love to hear from you.
To purchase the book from which this leadership essay comes, see Open and Relational Leadership: Leading with Love.