Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leading…No “Hot Girl Summer” for me!

Written by: on September 14, 2023

I had a plan for my Summer. It included many trips to the beach, a quest to find the best breakfast taco (my favorite food), a moderate amount of Uber driving for my children, leisurely reading for a book club that I joined (friends from high school), drinking frozen beverages and having my age-appropriate version of a “Hot Girl Summer”! If you are asking yourself, “What is a Hot Girl Summer? I’ll give you my definition but first let me share the origin of the term. The term originated from the rapper Megan Thee Stallion and before you look up the song or read the lyrics know that they are explicit and I am not endorsing the song, just the phrase. “Hot Girl Summer” has become a phrase that encourages women to be unapologetically yourself, loving yourself, and doing what makes you happy. It is about being free, having fun, being confident, and enjoying life on your own terms. This is exactly how I envisioned my Summer. I could not have been more wrong about how my Summer would unfold.

My Summer did not go as I expected. I was asked to step into a new role on a temporary basis with would require me to take on more work. I said yes and accepted a position as Interim CEO for an organization that has been a long-term client. The former CEO vacated the position with only 6 days’ notice, and I agreed to step in and take the helm until a new CEO could be identified. My “Hot Girl Summer” was exnihilated by that decision along with the quest to find the best taco and my book club ambitions. Since June 16th, I have implemented two new multi-million-dollar projects, hired, and on-boarded 40 new staff members (taking a staff of 8 to a staff of 48), acquired a new office space, implemented a new HR Management System, engaged a search firm, and narrowed a candidate pool of 200 to 20 to 10 to 5 and now down to 3 final candidates. This quote really sums up how I approached this position. Walker states, “Every change involves a degree of risk, and leadership is supremely about choices in the face of risk and the hope of reward.” (1) I moved forward without fear knowing that it was a risky decision. I still had other clients and a pretty full set of deliverables for those clients. I also had two sermons to prepare over the summer. I know that’s no big deal for my Pastor buddies that preach every Sunday but for me it takes preparation and practice. I dug my heels in, rolled up my sleeves and relied on my experience, knowledge, and skills. I knocked the obstacles down one by one until I completed the task(s). This was not my first experience leading an organization. I was the CEO of a small non-profit about 10 years ago and I disliked every moment of it. It was not strategy oriented it was completely outward facing- donor relations and event driven. What I now understand about myself is that I thrive in community, I enjoy the people aspect of the work. It is exactly the reason that I own a Consulting Firm with an emphasis on Organizational Effectiveness and Development. I have the pleasure of working with teams and I love it. I cannot say that I have loved this assignment, but I have done it well. My prayer is that upon my return from Oxford, a new CEO will be ready to take over. It has been a whirlwind!

Reading Simon Walker’s, Leading with Nothing to Lose really made me reflect on the way that I have led in this current space. I have not had a lot of time to plan and strategize. I moved right into execution of task, delegating duties and implementing processes. Although it was fascinating learning about the strategies of 8 world leaders, I wish that I had read this book at the beginning of the Summer. Let’s talk about the Self-emptying Strategy. “The Self-emptying leader is, in one sense, fully engaged, fully present, this is a strategy that requires the utmost courage and determination, to restrain yourself even in the face of provocation.” (2) I never knew that this was a thing, and I certainly never would have identified with it. Did I mention that the organization that I am leading is a refugee organization that is male dominated and the Founder is a Pakistani Billionaire and very involved and his son-in-law is the COO and feels compelled to report every detail to the Founder? The Self-emptying leader is a role that I have embraced and as advised it has been “voluntary, informed, and deliberate” (3) and I would add effective. Balancing cultural norms (which in this case involves patriarchal norms), the Founder Syndrome (they never really relinquish control), and bruised egos (COO was over-looked for the Interim Role), being a Self-emptying leader was the wisest strategy. I swung for the fences, moving intentionally towards the goals determined to turn over an organization in a much better situation than I found it to the new CEO. Loved Ones, please pray that they select someone before I return for the Advance.

1.Simon P. Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose: Training in the Excercise of Power (Carlisle, UK: Piquant Editions Ltd., n.d.), 24.

About the Author


Jonita Fair-Payton

4 responses to “Leading…No “Hot Girl Summer” for me!”

  1. Esther Edwards says:

    Oh wow, Jonita!
    What a gift you have been to an organization in turmoil. The ability to not react but listen and navigate when tensions are high is truly a feat requiring discipline. Self-emptying is not for the faint of heart. It truly is a relinguishing of control. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail.
    I will be praying with you that a new CEO is soon hired.
    On another note, so looking forward to the Hot Girl London Trip! You truly need time away.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      I was truly blown away when I read the definition of the Self-emptying leader. I read it a few times to be sure that I was seeing myself and my actions in the correct way. It is a difficult way to lead in an organization that is and will be in transition for some time. I have to remind myself that I have to remain strategic in my decisions and keep my eye on the goals. As my Daddy would say, “Don’t major in the minor, keep your eye on the finish line.” It’s not easy but is necessary.
      I am looking forward to our “HOT GIRL LONDON” adventure!

  2. mm John Fehlen says:

    I so enjoyed and was encouraged by reading your blog Jonita, and here is why…it blesses ME to read about someone ELSES problems.

    It’s kinda cathartic.

    Is that evil of me?

    Honestly, it does my heart good to hear the stories of others are over their heads and dealing with challenges that are coming across the plate faster than a major league pitch.

    I have a dear friend that I connect with a couple times a month over coffee. He is a busy lawyer and community judge. I am a pastor. You would not believe, or perhaps you would, just how well we connect, banter and understand each other. He said to me recently, “I have very few people John, and you are one of only a few, that get what I do and the weight I carry.”

    I feel the same about him. And I feel that way about you from your post. Appreciate that!

    See you in Oxford and may you arrive with a bounce to your step and someone else in the roll!

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      I love that you and your friend have created a space to support each other. Our work can be so lonely at times and isolating. I have felt like I was on an island alone many times and doing consultant work sometimes makes it worse. I am looking forward to connecting with you in Oxford.

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