Leadership holds a different meaning for me today than it did a few years ago when I was serving as Director of the American Red Cross, Director of the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, and finally Director of the Kalamazoo Prayer Center – all over a 20-year span. Back then, leadership to me meant “expert of everything, designer and implementor of ALL projects, powerful fund development director, and highly recognized face in the community.” I felt that I had to be it all! My internal vision put so much pressure and expectation upon myself. I thought I needed to know it all and make it all happen, because the “ball stops here” and I needed that ball to keep rolling – which I thought was my responsibility. At the time, it was my Type A personality that led me; not my faith in a loving God who was there to guide me down this roadway called LIFE.
Being a leader has a new meaning to me as I’ve moved away from the ‘needing to get ahead’ phase of my life and settled into my ‘journey with Christ’ leadership role. As a Chaplain, I don’t see myself as a leader, but instead as a humbled servant. But I believe there is influence in that as well. In a book by Northouse, Leadership Theory and Practice, the author describes leadership as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. I love the author’s use of the word “process” versus more common terms of leadership (as defined in Oxford Dictionary as “boss, supervisor, and/or commander.”) Because leadership is not one person, but truly a process towards a means – it takes working together with others for the goal to be reached.
I have not viewed myself as a leader over the past few years – as I have moved from a highly visible community presence position into the role of a chaplain. Yet, I’ve never felt more fulfilled and I am in awe as I see my patients learning and emulating the gifts I bring to them through the Word. There is no competition, no having to prove myself, no façade. I am just serving them in any way I can to help them find peace and contentment at the end of their life. Missing from this picture are the administrative duties, the company politics, and the weight that leadership generally brings with it. So, am I still a leader in my role as a Chaplain? I will use a looking glass into Brown’s Dare to Lead to decide.
Brown describes a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential. In Brown’s intro, she explained that the courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome. Living a brave life in difficult circumstances is an important aspect of leadership. In Hospice work, serving individuals who are dying as well as their distraught families can be difficult, as the situation cannot be controlled or predicted. God has got a hold on the final say. But sometimes, just being present for these individuals are all that is needed. And, I suppose, this is where my leadership role comes in – to influence and help people find their potential during times of loss and pain. As the author notes, daring leaders work to make sure people can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging.
Brown’s book was powerful, as it explored leadership through our values, through being courageous and by learning to rise and take our place in our leadership position. As the author quoted, we fail the minute we let someone else define success for us. True leaders must understand what success is to them…and then OWN it!
 Peter Northouse, Leadership Theory and Practice (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications),
 Brene Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, and Whole Hearts (New York, NY: Random House, 2018), 38.
 Brown, Dare to Lead, intro.
 Brown, Dare to Lead, 88.
 Brown, Dare to Lead, 144.