This week for our EP Member Spotlight, I’m sharing a few of my own perspectives on the topic of leadership…

EP Guest Post - Ellen Graf-Martin - FEATURE

“I want to be a manager.” I’ve heard those words from a few people lately. Fresh-faced, ready to take on the world young people. One actually said she wanted to be “the boss.”

And here’s what I think, every time I hear them (through my filter of experience): be careful of what you ask for. Even after 9 years of owning and leading an agency, I still sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for it. My neighbour reminded one of these young people the other day that managing means working with people. Not always the easiest experience, honestly.

When I was their age, I wanted to be a manager too. What I really wanted though, was for people to listen to me. To be important. To be well-compensated. To control things. To influence and lead others. To be part of the big exciting things, and have others take care of the little boring things. What I didn’t realize was that the truth of some more insightful words from the original life coach: “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” (Luke 16:10 NLT).

Here are a few things I’d love to tell those aspiring leaders, if they’d listen to an old lady like me.

  1. Leadership (and my career path overall) has been far more about learning humility (a right assessment of myself and others), and much less about gaining authority. It’s been less about knowing it all, and more about finding out what I don’t know. I’m learning even now that becoming a manager means carrying a heavy weight of responsibility. Responsibility not in telling people what to do, but in leading by doing. The “doing” and becoming in leadership has meant some long days and nights tossing and turning, learning to care about how choices impact others, and praying that I’ve actually been faithful with detail.
  2. EP Guest Post - Ellen Graf-Martin - IGWith faithfulness in little things, greater responsibility has followed. Greater responsibility had required greater strength – strength of character, strength of conviction, and strength of compassion. And how do you grow in strength of character?  This responsibility has required that I walk through hard things, failure, fear, success, and sometimes moments where I have had no idea how things played out except for by grace.
  3. We need to grow into our gifts. If we’re willing to choose to grow in character, we can grow into those areas we’re gifted in, and find strength and leadership there. The thing is, growth isn’t easy. It’s far easier to just try to jump in and rely only on our gifting, without the character to keep us there.
  4. Leadership is about investment. See, the context of the words about faithfulness that have guided me are actually words in a greater story. A story about someone who has gained wealth, learning to use it faithfully to care for others, living out the Kingdom amongst them, generously, so that at the end of their days those he or she served were there to welcome them into eternity. This is real leadership. Investing what is in our hands. Serving others with the rich gifts we’ve received, faithfully, in large noticeable ways and in small unseen ways, so that they might see the Saviour. It’s not about career path, or striving, or longing to manage others – it’s about servanthood. It’s about upside-down living, where the first become last and the last become first.

Leadership’s not been quite as glamourous as I once imagined. Ultimately, I think I wanted to be a manager or a leader because I wanted to be first. That’s what leaders do, right? It’s crazy important to my wee girl, as she pushes me out of the way to go before me, saying, “no! Today I am the leader, Mama!”. Adults aren’t immune to this type of thinking, where gifting precedes and overrides character, either. We see it over and over. There’s enough jockeying for position, and striving to pass others by so that we can win, to convince us that we’ll never be enough if we let others get ahead of us. That we need to be first. To assert ourselves, declaring our leadership rather than quietly serving others and finding out that somehow, as we did, people started to follow our example.

What has happened, is that I’m learning, little faithfulness by little faithfulness, that the first must serve, washing the feet of those who follow us. It’s there that we discover our influence. I wonder if, perhaps, that is the largest task of all.
Today, how will you grow as this type of leader?

Ellens Picks AffiliateThis is our fourth Ellen’s Picks Member Spotlight. We’re featuring guest blog posts from the inspiring women leaders of the Ellen’s Picks community! You can look forward to reading what these humble, impactful, faith-driven, and passionate women have to say about faith, leadership, family, ministry, and a wealth of other meaningful topics. Ellen’s Picks is the realization of a dream; a vision to connect a community of Christian women in leadership from across Canada with each other and life changing books. It is something to equip and encourage women who lead, addressing not just our day to day work but all the things that refresh, equip and engage our leaders’ hearts.