Living and Leading Well: What’s the difference?

Growing up, I was always the one in charge. On the playground, in my circle of friends, singing, dancing, or acting at church, playing games or sports, and being the oldest sibling – especially in our house. My mom used to call me “Queen Bee”, and even though I didn’t particularly come across as “bossy” to those outside of our home, I somehow always naturally fell into the position of leadership in whatever context I found myself in. (In 8th grade I was nominated President of the 4-H Club without choosing to run…it was unanimously decided by a show of hands sitting on a picnic blanket at the park. #homeschoollife) Leading people is something that I’ve always been inclined to do and something that I’ve never taken lightly. With influence comes great responsibility, and everyone, regardless of whether you feel you were a born leader or not, has influence and is responsible to some degree.

As I continuously grow into my role as a leader, I can’t help but pray that I grow into the leader God is calling me to be. As it is with most things in this life, sometimes it’s hard to determine who you want to be without also knowing who you don’t want to be. And unfortunately, you may only learn who that person is that you don’t want to be by spending time with someone who is that person. Being led by someone who does not lead you the way you want to be led is one of the most unintentional, painful, yet effective ways to learn how you yourself want to lead. On the flip side, I am indebted to those leaders who have poured into me and truly led me by showing me an incredible example of what it means to lead well.

What I am learning about leading is that you cannot separate it from living. Our lives as leaders should not be separated from our lives as individuals. So often we ask ourselves, “What steps do I need to take in order to be a better leader? What can I do to push people under my influence above myself and closer to the Lord?” But I think if we stop separating our personal lives from our role as leaders, we will see more fruit. The two were meant to coincide, and if we are working on being genuine as an individual, seeking God as an individual, encouraging others as an individual – that will naturally flow into our habits as a leader.

Lead humbly on your knees.
Be as fully immersed as possible in the world of those you are leading.
Learn what it means to be a good follower. This will make it much easier to remain full of the Spirit instead of full of yourself.
Lead by doing, not telling. Intentionally showing, not only instructing.
Who you are as a person is who you will be as a leader, so focus on getting yourself in the right place before you worry about your leadership.

My dad has coached all of my siblings for our entire sporting career, but what is interesting now as he coaches my youngest brother is being on the bleachers while he is coaching, amidst the people who carelessly state whatever they’re thinking in the heat of the moment, not realizing I’m related to the coach, and not understanding the coach’s perspective and the reasoning behind his choices as he leads the team. Eventually, they usually see things from his perspective, but not until after the game is played. It’s not that he never mistakes as a coach, but most of the time, the calls he makes that they remark about make no sense to them because they can’t see the full picture. This is something we must learn: Do not be so critical of people making choices based on insight you don’t have and things you can’t see. And know that as a leader, it is not your responsibility to please everyone. You will never please everyone. And if that is your mission – to keep peace and make everyone happy so that they like you, you’re missing the point of being a leader. You exist to make change and growth happen, and neither change nor growth will ever happen without open honesty and intentional action. Of course we must try to keep peace as much as we can, but not at the expense of surrendering the core of what we stand on.

So what is the difference between living well and leading well? Honestly, I’m not quite sure there is a difference. You can be a good person and feel as though you are not a good leader, but you cannot be a good leader without first and foremost being a good person. If you are living well, the most likely chance is you will lead well. But the opposite can never be true.

At the end of the day, I think it’s most important that we’re honest, transparent, vulnerable, and intentional…with ourselves and with each other. That we refuse to take part in talk that doesn’t edify each other but instead causes division, that we always express how we truly feel in a respectful way so that bitterness doesn’t create a wedge and expectations are never left unmet because they were unsaid, that we surround ourselves with people who see things from different vantage points and purposefully seek to incorporate that into our own perspective, that we love each other enough to provide constructive criticism so we can work on the things that hold us back from our full potential, and that we never stop speaking life into each other’s growth because we believe in what God can do through a bunch of broken people fully surrendered to Him.

Leading is hard. Working together is hard. But we will never lead the lives we are capable of leading if we do not strive to live the life we are capable of living. Live well, lead well.


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