Christian Women in Leadership: Linda Maris
According to Linda Maris, we need two things to make us good Christian leaders: to understand ourselves as unique creations of God and to rely on Him guide us through the right path. Read on…
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 Linda Maris who has been the President of the National Christian Foundation, Wisconsin (NCF WI) for the past 8 years. The purpose of NCF is to spread the joy of living a generous life. They work to simplyify charitable giving, multiply the impact of charitable gifts, and to build the Kingdom of God. She holds a B.S. from UW-LaCrosse and a J.D. from Marquette University Law School. Linda is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on A Confident L.I.F.E of Generosity – What’s in it for you?
We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:
What’s the favorite part of your job?
Generosity! Everything that we do at NCF is tied to encouraging individuals to live generous lives. And that makes me strive to be more generous through NCF and in my life!
How would you define Christian leadership?
Christian leadership is the understanding and application of two important truths—that each of us is individually created and that there are people and possessions that are placed in our care. Much has been written about Steward Leadership. First, Christian leaders embrace and use their unique God-given gifts and don’t focus on who or what they are not. Second, Christian leaders wisely steward what has been entrusted to them. The organizations and positions where we have been placed are not ours but God’s. God is the one who opens doors, provides opportunities, grows the organizations, and ensures the success. This realization took tremendous personal pressure off of me. My role is to simply nurture and care for the many assets of NCF WI—donors, relationships, Board, staff, budget, facilities, time, etc.…
How do you bring your Christian values into your work?
It is no longer an issue! NCF is a Christian organization and fortunately my life and work are totally integrated. I pray a lot and try to serve with the love of Christ.
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?
I have learned that if I am feeling uneasy or stressed about a decision I need to make, I need to take a pause because God is not in it and I need to wait on Him. Conversely, there have also been times when I should have been anxious about certain circumstances, but was not, and rested in the fact that God must be in it and was already working it out!
Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?
Definitely, in the years leading up to NCF WI. I felt that God was preparing me for something much different than the practice of law. I prayed a lot about God’s purpose for my life and the consistent answer was to just be patient. It payed off because had I initiated my own plan it would have been a much different story!
Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership?
I have always been encouraged by Romans 8:28 which reassures me that God works for the good in my life regardless of how bad things may seem. After moving from the legal profession to NCF WI, I realized how applicable this passage was to my work. As leaders, we can personally carry the weight of success for our organization, but when things don’t go as we have planned we can rest knowing that we don’t always see God’s bigger picture.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?
Relying on God in all I do. God is the secret sauce for all Christian leaders! I now realize that all I have are gifts from God—my calling to NCF WI, life experiences and opportunities, education, personality, intellect, strengths, and leadership ability. I cannot take any credit for these gifts but can strive to use them to the best of my ability.
What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?
Research shows that becoming an exceptional leader is half nature (your DNA) and half nurture (what you learn). This is good news because we can control a lot on how we lead. Start by understanding how you are wired. I have learned much about myself, how I make decisions, what drives me, and how I lead from self-assessment tools. You can take advantage of these self-assessment tools and embrace who you are and the strengths that God has uniquely given to you. Then commit to becoming a better leader. The resources are vast: books, conferences, websites, organizations. Enjoy the journey!
Linda Maris is the President at National Christian Foundation Wisconsin. She serves families & women, businesses, financial service advisors, ministries and churches with their charitable giving needs. Her vision is to continue to spread the message of generosity so that all can “excel in the grace of giving”.