Gretchen JamesonSr. VP for Strategy and University Affairs at CUW
Gretchen Jameson strives to live a life fully immersed in her Christian identity so whether she is leading or taking the lead, she is guided by God’s work in her life.
What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?
To find out, we caught up with Gretchen Jameson, Senior Vice President of Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin. She holds a B.S. in Education from Concordia University Nebraska, a M.A. in Public Relations from Webster University, and is currently working on her doctoral degree at the University of Southern California. Gretchen is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Living a Life of Radical Influence.
We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:
What’s the favorite part of your job?
People. People. People. Relationships make the world go ‘round. It’s ALL about the people: those I lead, those I encourage, and those I serve.
How would you define Christian leadership?
In the strictest sense, Christian leadership is that leadership tethered to Kingdom mission, but my hunch is that’s not what this question is asking. Here’s a provocative consideration: I once heard a baptized statesman, who serves our country at the highest levels, say that there’s “no such thing as Christian leadership. There’s just excellent leadership. And there’s no such thing as Christian business. There’s just ethical business.” He was not trying to diminish the faith, but rather he was challenging us to think carefully about applying the Christian label to manmade terms. If we want to define ‘Christian leadership,’ isn’t that just any leadership done by Christian people? As a baptized child of God (a Christian), my leadership is simply defined as the very best I can bring into the contexts to which God leads me, where I use the unique talents and giftedness He has granted me to their fullest extent.
Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?
That’s tough, because faith is my baptism identity and its core teachings are bedrock, so it’s hard to imagine a specific time when who I am created to be, by God’s grace, all the time took the lead. BUT I could tell you infinite stories where my sinful self has unfortunately come to the forefront. I think as women leaders who are Christ-followers, it’s that daily battle with our “old Eve” that wars for our mind and spirit. The temptation to lead from a position of power, prestige, or entitlement can corrupt so swiftly!
Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?
Certainly! Many times. I don’t know that I would consider God’s plans “bigger,”—my life and leadership are hardly center stage events—and I also don’t subscribe to a view of God’s work in my life as sort of steering me along a set path (which defeats our Lutheran theology of the free will), BUT what I have come to see throughout my ministry and my career is that God’s purpose is worked out in every and all circumstances. Have I taken the pass on a big opportunity and seen it work to His purpose? Yes. Have I made a major leap totally uncertain of the outcome and watched Him make something incredible out of the experience? Absolutely. BUT, and this is the critical thing, in every instance, I could have opted for the other path, chosen door ‘B’ instead of door ‘A’, and I am certain He would have worked beauty in that, too. God graces our lives with a bounty of options. When we are fervent in our walk, and close to Him through Word and sacrament, He blesses us with discernment. What a freeing truth!
Who are your biggest role models as a leader?
Women, of both large influence and minor opportunities alike, who overcome adversity to solve problems, shape communities, and make their world a better place for their children and their neighbors.
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?
I am a Christian, who happens to be in a position of leadership. My career journey has certainly forged me to lead well. My identity in Baptism is as close to me as my own DNA. I wouldn’t know how to lead apart from that core.
What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?
Begin with humility. Assume that every encounter into which you are led, every individual you are blessed to impact, every assignment you complete, and every project you launch is an opportunity to serve, to learn, and to grace that moment. When we begin with humility, we recognize the myriad of teachers and experts around us, and we are led to lead with greater and greater depth and purpose.
Gretchen Jameson currently serves as Sr. Vice President for Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Mich. Gretchen, her husband, Leon and their two young daughters reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.