What Leadership Means to 2018 Streufert Winner Christina Erdmann
Honesty. Commitment. The Ability to Inspire. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, these words are among the top ten traits of leadership, but what does leadership mean to me?
Leadership is, and always has been, one of the defining factors of my personality and reputation. It began with the coveted role of line leader in kindergarten and election to student council in middle school. In high school, I was a leader on the basketball court, and leadership showed up in a variety of places. Before I can remember, I always enjoyed being a leader.
Then everything changed. As I continuously took on leadership roles, leadership became something that was saturated with stress and expectation. During high school, everyone would say, “If you want to get accepted into good colleges, you have to be a leader.” In college, leadership opportunities had similar connotations. Leadership was no longer a strength I was proud of, it was a requirement. As a leader, I found myself in the midst of a heated battle between expectation and desire. “Maybe I should stop being a leader altogether,” I thought. I had let the word leadership define my reputation; and yet, I had completely lost the meaning of why I was leading in the first place and my desire to pursue it.
I realized I needed to utterly redefine the meaning of leadership in my life. After taking time for prayerful thought and consideration, I realized three vital, redefining ideas:
First, with the right mindset, leadership is one of the purest forms of service. As I reflect on the times when I felt overwhelmed by the idea of leadership, I realize I held wrong motives for leading.
Leadership seemed to be something that could make ME stand out to colleges or seem well-rounded. It was something I had to do to maintain a reputation. I didn’t need to stop being a leader; I needed a complete change of mindset.
Once I let leadership be defined as an opportunity to serve others, my idea of leadership completely changed. Leadership is not about the reputation of the LEADER, it is about the people he or she is LEADING. In fact, the best kind of leader is one that takes on the role of a servant. As the Bible says, “So the last shall be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). Selfless leadership is the type of leadership God desires of us, and it is the type of leadership that completely transforms its definition.
Next, leadership provides a unique means to build community. A pivotal leadership opportunity I held during my junior year at Concordia was leading a women’s ministry called LIGHT (Ladies in God’s Hands Together). During this time, I remember feeling the stress that came with the role of running the ministry. However, as I reflect upon this year of leadership, the community that was built through these moments conquers all other memories. The work we did as the LIGHT leadership team tangibly showed me how leadership can instill in us a sense of belonging. At the end of the year, what started as a group of strangers planning a series of events became a community.
Another pivotal moment was my opportunity to attend Pressure Points, a Women’s Leadership Institute event that encouraged and advised women to courageously step into leadership positions in the work world and beyond. This WLI event allowed me to see that the true meaning of leadership is founded in community, togetherness and mentorship.
Leadership without fellowship is trivial. Ultimately, leadership is about loving others and working together, a combination that can create amazing fellowship through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Leadership is call to action. As Christians, we are called to be different. We are called to be leaders. In the Bible, there were strong, courageous leaders like David and Moses as well as lead-by-example leaders like Daniel and Ruth. God called each of these people and used their unique strengths in incredible ways. It’s the same story for you and me. Leadership doesn’t have to mean leading a group of Israelites through the desert, fighting Goliath, or even leading a Bible study.
Leadership means standing up for our faith and being confident in the strengths that God has given us. God commands us to “love one another” (John 13:34) and tells us that we are the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). We have clear directions from God that show us how to be leaders in a secular society. They are a call to action.
Ultimately, leadership isn’t about achievement, about standing out, or about feeling pressure to be someone you’re not. Leadership is about serving others through the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and empowering others to do the same. Once we let leadership be characterized by words like compassion, community, service, and calling, we realize the tremendous blessing that leadership is and that every one of us can be a leader.
As I look forward to continuing my graduate studies at UW-Lacrosse, these qualities of leadership will guide my pursuit of both academics and relationships. These qualities have not only changed the way I view leadership, but they have restored the confidence I hold in my identity as a beloved, strong, and capable child of God.WLI