Susan MarshallFounder of the Backbone Institute
Susan Marshall has one piece of advice for Christian leaders in a secular world: stay true to God’s Word.
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 Susan Marshall, Founder of the Backbone Institute. Their tagline is “Never grow a wishbone where a backbone ought to be,” and their mission is to create a stronger, more confident future one person or team at a time. She holds a B.S. in Management and an MBA from Stritch University. Susan is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Developing Confidence in MY Ability to Influence.
We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:
What’s the favorite part of your job?
Seeing people grow—their energy and excitement is contagious!
How would you define Christian leadership?
Having the courage to live as God commands in a world that shuns Him and His message. Having the strength to encourage and comfort others who struggle with worldly demands and feel woefully inadequate.
How do you bring your Christian values into your work?
Patiently. Consistently. Joyfully. There is greater power in invitation and acceptance than in judgment and condemnation. We are all human. We all struggle and fail. Since we have been forgiven for EVERYTHING we have messed up, we can offer forgiveness and acceptance to those who have hurt us. Our open arms are a radical invitation to change.
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?
The past two years have been full of family challenge. Dad passed in August 2016. Mom passed this June. I was assigned Power of Attorney in the Estate Trust they created in 1997. My decisions for their treatment and living arrangements were soundly criticized and challenged by siblings, who had little involvement and who have abandoned “religion.” God’s promise to be with me always was enormously comforting. The seven months we had with Mom here provided time to convince her that God wasn’t waiting for her to do “one more good thing” that would assure her safe arrival in heaven. We were blessed.
Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?
The past two years! My professional work was almost entirely set aside to care for Mom and Dad. As a single, independent professional, I had no idea how I was going to keep up with mortgage and monthlies. God provided and has now opened new doors for work.
How does working in a secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?
Being a Christian leader in a secular setting demands quiet and consistent courage. Reading God’s word, reflecting on secular values and why they do not matter to me, and letting go the things of this world are all daily disciplines. It is difficult to stay true to God’s plan without coming across as holier-than-thou or painfully naive. Resisting the judgment/assessment of others is a constant challenge.
Who are your biggest role models as a leader?
Paul, David, and Abraham. There are few today, which points to an enormous opportunity for us!
Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership?
Jeremiah 29:11. I can come up with plans and strategies, but I’ve learned to relinquish them to God’s will. I can become upset with the world’s judgment of my work and the work of other Christian women, but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. He HAS plans for each of us. Our job is to trust Him.
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?
Conflict. Struggle. Failure. I have had to fall hard in order to appreciate God’s power. Sad, but true!
What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?
Scorn and ridicule by the intellectual elite. They tell me believing in God is superstition; trusting His will is irresponsible and lazy.
What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?
Be strong. Stay true to God’s Word. Find people to support you. Ignore social pressure. LEAD. he world needs you more than ever!