Concordia University Wisconsin

Christian Women in Leadership: Rachel Morton

For Rachel Morton, an important part of being a Christian leader is recognizing our own fallibility and need for God’s grace as we lead others in Christian love. 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 Rachel Morton, Assistant Worship Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, WI. Since July 2012, she has spent her time directing choirs, writing worship services & school chapel services, overseeing traditional worship services and the groups that serve in them, and overseeing the women’s retreat committee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Parish Music (double emphasis in piano and organ) with a Theology Minor and a Master of Church Music (emphasis in choral conducting) from Concordia University Wisconsin.

We asked Rachel a few questions about her job and her views on Christian Leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job?

I love the relational aspect of my job (and that my job allows me the time and opportunity to be relational). Working with people isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, but it’s so rewarding! I love walking with people through the joys and struggles of their lives, even if it means walking them through conflicts. I love watching them have these “light bulb moments” when they can personally connect with what it means to be a loved and forgiven child of God and the impact that has not only on their service within worship ministry and the church, but also the impact it has on their relationships with family and friends and co-workers and the impact it has on how they live their lives. There’s nothing better than watching someone know and feel God’s love and getting to be a part of that journey with them!

How would you define Christian leadership?

Christian leadership is both leading AND following. It means humbling ourselves to follow God’s will (to love Him and serve Him with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves) and then leading people to follow it as well (and to come back to it when they stray). It means leading with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, and realizing that when (not if, but when) we fall short, there is a time and place to practice repentance and forgiveness. Christian leadership is leadership with integrity that leans hard into God’s grace and love at all times and in all circumstances.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

You would think that working in a church would make it much easier to live out Christian values, but that isn’t always the case. The church is full of sinful, imperfect people just like anywhere else, and I am definitely one of them! I bring my Christian values into the workplace when I acknowledge that I personally need to practice daily repentance and forgiveness, to speak the truth in love (even when it’s hard or met with opposition), to respect the authority of those I work under even when I don’t agree with them (and to refrain from criticizing them when I don’t agree), and to be a godly team member and not a “glory hog.” The Lord knows I don’t do any of this perfectly, but I try to be a person of integrity and to be consistent in living out my values; they should be the same whether I’m at home or at work.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

I remember struggling part of the way through college with what I actually wanted to do with my life, which was strange because I’ve known since I was 12 that I wanted to pursue music as a career and since I was 15 that I wanted to pursue a calling to serve as a church musician. I struggled through a lot of personal issues and life circumstances that made me wonder if music was where God was calling me. I thought I might be better served to change my major and go into counseling or even social work because I felt this strong pull toward a profession that would allow me to help people. I sought advice from people who I knew cared deeply for me and who would support me in whatever decision I made, I spent time in prayer and in God’s Word, and in the end I had to just trust that God would guide me to where He wanted me.

I finished my degree in church music, and then the time came for some big decisions: 1) to continue on in school to get my masters in church music, 2) to go to St. Louis to get a degree in deaconess studies with a counseling emphasis, 3) to pray for a call to take me home to Texas, or 4) to accept the call that was coming in from St. John’s in West Bend (WI) to be their Assistant Worship Director. After a lot of prayer, I felt a pull to follow God’s call to St. John’s, and I have been so blessed in that decision. It has not always been my ideal and every now and then I do wonder if this what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life, but I do know that right now I am blessed. I have learned and grown so much as a leader through my job, it gave me the opportunity through proximity to complete my masters in church music at CUW, and allowed me to see that I don’t need a counseling degree to be able to help people through the trials in their life (and it’s put me in a position to do that). It wasn’t easy to trust God each step of the way, but I am glad that He led me down the path that He did.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

I don’t think that working in a religious setting changes HOW I lead as a Christian, but it definitely heightens my awareness that people watch to see how Christians lead (both inside and outside of religious settings). If nothing else, working in a religious setting helps to keep me accountable to my Christian values.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I look up to people that I can see making a difference in the world or an impact for the Gospel of Christ (coincidentally, some of them are women that are speaking at the Gifted to Influence Conference or were highly involved in putting it together!). That is something that I hope and pray that I am doing or am able to do one day.

On a more personal front, my mentor from age 14 to now, Martha Garmon, has been the biggest role model in my life. When I was younger she modeled a strong work-ethic that helped drive me through high school and college. She modeled respect for my parents and those in authority, she modeled integrity in her job (as a worship director for our church) and in her personal life, and now as an adult/peer she continues to model all of those things as well as what it means to be a godly wife, mother, sister, friend, and what it means to be a woman of Christian influence. I owe so much of my character and value development to her!

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership?

Two scripture passages come to mind when I think about my values as a Christian leader, and I cannot really choose between the two.

The first is my confirmation verse (that has become my life verse): “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19). This verse reminds me of what my foundation is: the love of Christ that makes me a part of the kingdom of God. God’s love is something that fills my heart and life to overflowing and influences everything that I do. It’s a reminder of what I am working for: to spread the love of Christ that I have been privileged and blessed to know!

The second verse is one I find myself turning to when I wonder what God’s will for my life is or when I’m faced with difficult decisions (both as a Christian and as a Christian leader). “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it,” (Isaiah 30:21). No matter what I may be facing in life, I need to trust that God is leading and guiding and working things out for the good, even when I can’t see what that is yet.

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?

I think having Christian mentors, leaders, pastors, and teachers to look up to during my “formative years” prepared me the most to be a Christian leader once I entered the workplace. Really, those people (men and women) prepared me to be not only a Christian leader but also a “decent human being,” if you want to think of it that way. They modeled Christian living as something that affects all aspects of my life, not just my leadership.

 What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

I think fatigue (physical and emotional/mental) is one of my biggest challenges to face in Christian leadership. I don’t think any of us should ever underestimate the impact that our words and actions—our leadership—can have on the lives of those we interact with every day. At the same time, being so aware of the people around us and then trying to figure out how to meet their needs can be tiring (or even exhausting) after a while. So it’s been an important part of my leadership to have “safe places” where I can go to talk through my thoughts or my feelings as they relate to leadership. Those conversations are usually reserved for my mentors or for colleagues who are experiencing a lot of the same issues. It’s just important to have a place of support (where I can both receive and give it) to help combat the fatigue that could lead to burnout.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Don’t ever try to go through life alone. Leaders especially need people in their lives to give them moral and physical support, to hold them accountable, to pray for and with them, and to remind them that they don’t have to be “perfect” all the time. If we’re being transparent, I don’t know what I would do without those ladies in my life with whom I can laugh and cry and talk about anything. Sometimes we just need someone to “be real” with so we can continue to be encouraged for the tasks that God has given us to do.

Christian Women in Leadership: Gretchen Jameson

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. 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 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.

Christian Women in Leadership: Dr. Tamara Ferry

Dr. Tamara Ferry works each day to educate Christian leaders by helping them serve with the gifts God has given them. 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 friend of WLI and past presenter Tamara Ferry who is the Director of Institutional Research and Director of Assessment for the School of Pharmacy at Concordia University Wisconsin. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Concordia College, Portland, an M.S. in Secondary School Guidance Counseling from St. Cloud State University, and a Ph.D. in Urban Education and Education Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tamara is all a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Identity Theft: Putting on Christ, an Identity the World Can’t Steal!

We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job?

Everyday I’m amazed at how the responsibilities and expectations of my job build on and match the interest and skills the Lord has given me.  I’m so thankful for my calling here at Concordia and I’m blessed to work in a position where my gifts and the needs of the university overlap. So, I guess my favorite part of my job is the sense of purpose I feel every day.

How would you define Christian leadership?

I would say that for me Christian leadership means living my life centered on where and how the Lord has called me: living my vocation basically. Such as living my vocation as a spouse by being the best spouse I can be, living my vocation as a professional by being the best employee I can be. Christian leadership also entails servant leadership. As a servant leader, I try to serve and lead by helping those around me live their vocations.  In my relationships with colleagues and students at Concordia I find myself asking, “How can I help them be servant leaders?” “How can I encourage them, highlighting and acknowledging their gifts, calling, and vocation?”

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

I bring my Christian values to work by interacting with my colleagues and students in a way that I hope inspires them toward engagement…engaging in a life of service and leadership that comes from knowing we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus.

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?

My professional role encompasses a multitude of tasks and responsibilities, most of which feel difficult to me!  So it’s hard to separate out a specific experience. I’m constantly relying on God’s guidance and strength in all my undertakings. But lately a tough challenge has been gaining a better understanding of the concept of “big data” and everything “big data” entails. We are working toward bringing all of our somewhat isolated and fragmented data structures into a “data warehouse” that will enable us to answer complex and strategic questions in a more consistent and timely fashion. The process and technology behind this project is tough for me to comprehend so I’m relying heavily on some very talented and smart colleagues!

Looking back is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

Well, 20 years ago when we received the call that Pat was chosen to be president of Concordia we were shocked!  At 38-years-old he had no administrative experience and we were completely planning on a cross-country move to Texas, where Pat had already accepted a new position. Our house was sold! But God’s plan was bigger so we trusted in His plan for our lives and how He would use us according to His will to fulfill His purpose.

Then, a couple years later, Pat asked me to take on my current position of being Concordia’s Director of Institutional Research. I said, “No way!” I really just wanted to teach and I thought this position sounded really hard and, frankly, boring. But here I am, 18 years later, working as both the Director of Institutional Research and Director of Assessment for the School of Pharmacy and loving it.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

Working in a religious setting allows me to freely convey my faith and express who God intended me to be.  It enhances my ability to reflect the love of God in Jesus in all of my conversations, meetings, decisions etc….  I hope my co-workers see that I’m grounded in the knowledge that God has a plan and that He is using me according to His purpose. The Lord says in Jeremiah 29, verse 11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

The president of Concordia! Over the years, I’ve watched my husband solve complex problems and sticky situations with great integrity and strength. I’ve witnessed Pat’s tenacity, humility, and patience. He is steadfast, disciplined, and visionary. His faith is active in love! I can’t count the number of times Pat has encouraged, comforted, and inspired others through the gospel message. He’s also a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandpa and our family is his highest priority. For over 30 years he’s supported all of my personal and professional endeavors, encouraging me to fully use my talents however I’d like.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?

I’m a lifelong LCMS Lutheran and my passion for the value of a faith inspired university experience stems from the experiences I had growing up as a professor’s kid on the campus of a Lutheran college. In fact, after I was born my parents brought me home from the hospital to a college dorm where they lived as dorm counselors. So it feels like God has been preparing me for this work since the day I was born!

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

The challenges I face stem from personal limitations. There are aspects of leadership that I don’t do very well, probably because I have a tendency to avoid risk and stay in my comfort zone. So my biggest challenges involve trusting and surrendering…trusting God’s plan and surrendering to His will.  Also technology!

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

My words of advice are God’s words, “Be still and know that I am God.” Leadership can be demanding and draining. So, don’t forget to take time to be fed and to rest in God’s promise of peace. When you’re having a crazy, hectic day, and your patience gets short remember these words – even better, say these words. “Be still and know that I am God.”  Your future is in God’s hands and He will carry you there.

Living a Life of Radical Influence

by Gretchen Jameson

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”  ~ Modern Parable

Well that certainly sets up a particular worldview, doesn’t it? As parables go, this pithy, pointed phrase coined sometime around 2000 (or so a quick Wikipedia search says) provokes a certain sense of ferocious urgency. After all, who wants to be eaten? Applied to women in leadership, it urges us (and in many instances, rightly so) to claim our seat at the table, lean in, and get to work.

That’s not such a bad goal.

But, rather than approach leading from a sort of “Hunger Games,” eat-or-be-eaten philosophy, what if we took a more expansive view of how to gain and how to exert influence?

This September, women from across the work-life spectrum convene in Milwaukee for the 2017 WLI national conference, “Gifted to Influence.” It’s an attractive theme.  As a woman executive, I have certainly come to enjoy opportunities to influence on a wide range of levels. I am grateful for the work and long to see men and women of faith exert influence throughout the workforce.

But:

Influence for the Christ-called leader
is never the goal.

For Christ-called leaders, work in our homes, in our neighborhoods and communities, and most assuredly in our places of enterprise must draw deeply from our fidelity to service, above all else. This is a particularly difficult perspective to achieve. Our nature too often prefers the allure of the ‘dark side’ of influence: manipulation, compulsion, control, prestige, reputation.

Influence that results as stewardship of God’s grace, that results from abiding in relationship with our Father, yields significance, character, and unlimited opportunities to guide and shape and sway. In short, it yields fruit. Fruit we might accurately define as Christian leadership.

Influence, for the Christ-called leader, is an outgrowth of deep abiding. Achieving it calls us to know fully the Giver of our leadership gifts; to study carefully to unique gifts each one of us have uniquely been given; and submission to our Heavenly Father to apply the gifts He gives as they are intended to be used.

And then, only then, will we experience radical influence; influence that stems “from the roots,” from the very core of our connection to our God, who has taken hold of our very lives for His good use.

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. She is the Bible study leader at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee September 29 – October 1, 2017.

Christian Women in Leadership: Linda Arnold

How do you incorporate Christian values in a secular setting?

Linda Arnold, current chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute, answers that question for us. Linda is on the nursing faculty at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. She has Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing, plus Lay Ministry Training from Concordia University Wisconsin. She has served on the WLI board since 2013.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

My students and colleagues are aware of my Christian values. Bringing my distinctively Christian world view into conversations and letting them know that I pray for them is powerful. When I make time to acknowledge them and listen without judgement, my goal is that they would see Jesus in me.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

God speaks straight to my heart in Proverbs 4:10 where he directs me to “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Remembering who God is helps me to rest in Him when evil threatens to prevail. Taking time to be quiet before God does not typically come naturally to leaders. This is a critical discipline for a successful Christian woman in leadership.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

God provides equipping for leadership in some very unusual forms. Do not discount any of your life experiences. Embrace them and look for the lesson.

Christian Women in Leadership: Sarah Holtan

The secrets to Sarah Holtan’s leadership success: Integrity, citizenship and the Dream Team. 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 Sarah Holtan who is the Chair of the Department of Communication at Concordia University of Wisconsin. Sarah has been at CUW since 2001 and has held numerous roles there. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communication and Political Science from Augsburg College, and M.S. in Education for CUW, and a Ph.D. in Journalism Education from Marquette University. Sarah is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Speaking 101: Delivery That Delivers.

We asked Sarah a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

I love developing curriculum, energizing class discussions, mentoring, career counseling, and inventing fun “side” projects completely outside my job description.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Integrity: Via role modeling; and holding myself, peers, direct reports, and students accountable to expected standards.

Citizenship: Integrating current events into course curricula.

Service: Offering short-term service learning projects in a few courses; serving on many committees; and nearly always saying yes to special requests, tasks, and duties.

Work Ethic: A disposition of gratitude toward my professional vocation; being willing to roll up my sleeves and do the work.

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 was the Dean of Students for several years at CUW and the Chief Conduct Officer. I had to make many tough decisions. One of the toughest types of decisions was whether a student had to be removed from a resident hall or the University following a serious violation. I had to weigh the rights of the individual student and the concept of forgiveness against the rights of the community and the concept of consequences. As such, I often relied on my values of integrity and citizenship. I don’t know if I got all the tough decisions right but I’m hopeful that God was able to use any mistakes for something good.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

I’ve worked in both settings and they do seem different. Perhaps I am more thoughtful about how my decisions affect others now that I work in a religious context. My success seems secondary to others now. However, age and maturity might be the key contributors to becoming more other-centered. It’s important that Concordia prepares students to be Christian leaders wherever they work, regardless of the setting.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I am blessed to have a peer group that has supported and helped me grow professionally. We call ourselves the “Dream Team,” although no one else has adopted that moniker! Our similarities drew us together and aided in our bonding. Our differences challenge us and spur growth.

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

Ironically, it was the creation of an in-house, faith-based leadership program for faculty and staff at Concordia. A colleague, Prof. Tracy Tuffey (Psychology Department) and I developed the program from scratch. We created a proposal, pitched it to the higher ups, secured funding, generated buy-in from participants and administrators, organized the logistics, facilitated the sessions, assessed the program, and turned it into a research project. Prof. Tuffey and I simply wanted to fulfill a perceived need on our campus. No one asked us to do this nor compensated us. It’s actually been an enormous energizer for me at work. It’s also taught me a lot about having an original vision and seeing it through, despite the obstacles. I believe vision and perseverance are two hallmarks of leadership.

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

I’ll answer the same way I’ve heard others answer: the scrutiny of being a Christian. It seems to be held against us at times. It’s quite impossible to be perfect and people watch us very carefully! I have found that when I try to defend my Christian perspective (e.g., consequences along with forgiveness), I just end up sounding defensive. That is something I am working on.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Fight the Good Fights. Ask yourself a few questions to discern the difference between Good and Bad Fights. Does justice need to be served? Does a person or a cause need advocacy? Is this project/task/duty worthwhile personally or professionally, even if there is no recognition or compensation? Would you still take this project/task/duty on, even if creates a headache or full-blown backlash? Could you defend yourself with evidence? If you took your ego out of the equation, would you still engage in this conflict? If you “lose” the fight, can you turn the “loss” into a valuable lesson? I don’t mind a good loss. It can ease my conscience, serve others, and possibly even build some credibility and trust along the way. Ideally, it paves the way for change in the future. Sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s been my experience.

Three Takeaways from #WLIconfident: The Road to Becoming a Confident Leader

On a still Saturday morning in September, on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin, fifty women of all ages and educational backgrounds journeyed together on a Road to Becoming a Confident Leader led by founder, speaker and author of the Backbone Institute, Susan Marshall.

Susan described a three-ring diagram, in which our comfort zone lies in the center, surrounded by our learning zone and outwardly a panic zone. As human beings, we tend to operate in “safe mode,” engaging in conversations and interactions with others where we feel most comfortable. Periodically, we have an opportunity to venture out and discover more, perhaps even welcome a period of information gathering and learn more about a situation or opportunity. When conflicts, contradicting values and the otherwise unknown alter our critical thinking, decision making and ultimately shake our confidence in our leadership ability, we’ve entered the panic zone.

After sharing her personal leadership journey, Susan invited the women to share with one another their own journeys, and then set out to dispel the myth of total confidence, all couched within the spiritual perspective that God has a plan for our lives (Jer. 29:11) and that sufferings produce endurance, character and hope (Romans 5:3.)

  1. Confidence is having a positive expectation for a favorable outcome.

There is no such thing as total confidence. When worried, fearful or unsure of our leadership abilities, critical thinking is not making assumptions, wishful thinking or based on memories.

  1. Critical thinking is the willingness and ability to see reality as it is, and make decisions accordingly.

When faced with a challenge or dilemma, critical thinking involves:

  • Recognizing other people involved in the situation and their thoughts on the matter
  • Addressing any assumptions you may have made about the situation itself, those involved and your leadership
  • Considering who might be impacted by your decision, and what kind of impact
  • Identifying compromises, and whether you can live with any of them
  • Naming your desired outcome
  • Taking action; even just by doing one thing to begin resolving your challenge

Things to remember:

  • Consider those around you. Perhaps ask them which zone they fall into regarding the conflict – comfort zone, learning zone or panic zone.
  • Consider the impact your decision may have on those around you.
  • Not acting is not a strategy.
  • Compromise is a potential strategy.

Susan’s workshop allowed ample time for the women to identify their own challenges and immediately apply the above critical thinking process.  She called on us to both prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13) call on the Holy Spirit for power, love and self-control (2 Tim 1:7).

  1. Feedback is another person’s response to something you do, which results in an emotional response by you. You then have an opportunity to accept it and act on it, or leave it be.

Whenever you receive feedback, “Sarah” is there:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Acceptance
  • Hope

Upon receiving feedback, whether good or bad, it is common to experience some or all of the above emotions. Consider asking yourself, or, if you’re feeling courageous, the person giving you the feedback, three questions:

  1. What can you do more?
  2. What can you do less?
  3. What should you continue to do?

Alternately, if you are the person giving feedback, prayerfully and thoughtfully do so with compassion, but be direct. Be certain the person knows exactly what they should do more, do less, and continue to do well.

After spending time together, the attendees were given the opportunity to give feedback about one another, which certainly produced some emotional responses (Sarah). However, this ultimately led to an awareness of the effectiveness of feedback in a leadership setting. Susan reminded us that God is on our side (Romans 8:31; Isaiah 41:10.)

The women leaders left the workshop with renewed feelings of encouragement, hope and confidence, as well as tools to equip them for exemplary Christian leadership in the home, church, workplace and the world.

caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right
A Note from Darcy Paape WLI Director

 

"This photo is from the workshop is of all undergraduate and graduate students from CUW who attended.  Twenty-one of our registrants were students! We are so excited to see the involvement of CUW and other university students with WLI! This group is truly for everyone."

wliconfident_photo