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January 10, 2007

What Are You Waiting For?



Humans have found their vocal chords. Long silenced by the engineered anonymity of the Industrial Age, homo sapiens are now talking to each other at unprecedented levels. When we can connect globally by phone at the push of a button, when our e-mails can cross continents and language barriers in nano-seconds, when we can blog or pod-cast our most mundane thoughts to the rest of humanity or broadcast the home video of our cat?well, let's just say the world has changed. A lot. From MySpace.com to YouTube to Craigslist, who we are matters.

Yet who we are together - in conversation - matters even more. As we discover our aggregate voice, we initiate tremors way past 10 on the human Richter scale. No longer are we held captive, isolated, and essentially mute by government, academia, or corporate America. Even the media is programming around our newfound affinities. Witness Dan Rather's hard-learned lesson in 2005. Just a few hundred bloggers forced CBS to terminate him as a news anchor.

When one looks at how our old world was built, this shift is not surprising. Every one of the institutional world's identifying features - hierarchy, control, predictability, homogeneity, and compartmentalization - depended upon the constriction of conversation and relationship. But in a hyper-connected world, collaboration replaces hierarchy; control is no longer possible; predictability is shattered; diversity thrives; and flattened, webbed systems supplant labels and compartments.

Why should all this matter to talented, brilliant, savvy leaders who happen to be female? Let's just put it out there: Women tend to be really, really good at conversation. They often excel at relationship and foster connection without even realizing it. What's more, most women think in webbed patterns vs. compartments, and are able to function in situations that are unexpected and downright messy. Scientists are now telling us that those patterns reflect the way women's brains are wired. Amazingly, this "wiring" was viewed as "soft" in the modern era. Even up through the early 2000's, women's natural leadership bents have been considered non-essential or even detrimental to success. However, as the old command-and-control universe disintegrates (and yes, even in the church), the definition of effective leadership is shifting rapidly. Leadership is no longer about one person's vision and authority. It is now about one person's ability to release the talents of many. It is about influence, not power. And make no mistake: Influence has relationship at its core.

You may be on staff at a church or parachurch organization. You may have a college degree (or two) and have chosen to stay home with three children. You may be ministering in a 9 to 5 job and doing more ministry in your off hours. Whatever your situation, this new world is putting out its welcome mat for you. The door is unlocked. The lid is off the box. If you've been frustrated that you can't break through the system, now is your time. Because if you want to do something truly significant, you can create it from scratch out of your basement. You can start a blog that focuses on the needs of seniors. You can begin a MarthasList with the people at work. (How cool to have people trading stuff, opportunities, skills, and telling their stories to each other as they do it!) You can rally your neighborhood around an environmental problem that everyone just looks at every day and wishes would go away. You can interface government and religious agencies to begin an after-school program for kids in your community. You can join Bono's One Campaign and make a difference in Africa. In short, now you can be Christ with skin on in more places, to more people, than you ever thought possible. Some of you have been waiting what seems eons for the certificate, the letters, the plaque on the door, and - let's be honest - the male okay. What this new world means for you is that you don't have to wait anymore. You can lead from your strengths and you can lead right from where and who you are, right now.

Just one last thought: If you embrace the new world that is so-not-accidentally upon us, you will be in sisterhood with the women of a very old world. The women at Jesus' tomb didn't wait for permission. They went, they saw, they acted, they spoke. And the world was changed.

It's a new day. What are you waiting for?

Comments

Thank you so much for your article, Sally. My very wounded and weary heart finds rays of real hope and anticipation as it resonates with all you say here. In the past 5 years in professional ministry, I have felt so much like a square peg in a round hole, like a fish swimming against the flow, and one of the oldest and deeply intrenched ideas God has been challenging for me has been that I have always waited for permission from the "powers that be" to step out to be and do all that I am called to. I have come to see this type of waiting to be a form of idolatry. By looking to others for the nod to move forward in leadership and life, I have bowed to a system and sacrificed so much on the wrong alter. Lord willing, my actions will be more in line with what the Father wants and do what is sometimes excruciatingly harder to do in this day and age, to fear Him more than men.

Syd

I totally agree with and embrace the words in your article. It is as God has been speaking to me lately.

I'm praying for release of my pent-up visions, and for God to let all blockages fall by the wayside.

Interesting post Syd. Yes we seem to be trained to "ask permission".

Blooming where you are planted means doing as Jesus did. While those around him, even his friends, wanted him to do and be something different, he only did the will of his Father. Those around him didn't understand his ways. Yet, he persisted in living his life in the ways God chose.

An interesting film to watch is Mother Teresa starring Olivia Hussey. Mother Teresa also only listened to the voice of her master.

It occurred to me one day that I was done asking permission. Not that I became rude... I just thought, "I'm going to do what I do best, and whoever wants the blessing can have it." Let's face it. Even Jesus acted in this way.

What options are there for men in a webbed world, if "most women think in webbed patterns" and most men do not?

One thing men can bring today is focus. When so many things compete for time and attention, focus is helpful. When we have too much information, focus is helpful. When the web connects to everyone and everything, focus is helpful.

So we need women to bring their ability, as Sally says, "to think in webbed patterns" and we need, maybe more than ever, men to bring their ability to look at only one part of the web.

I resonate with this article. I, too, am gifted for leadership, and have spent time and energy longing to have those gifts be recognized and utilized more fully within the church. But I've come to realize a couple of things: the gifts I have were chosen for me because He has work in mind for me to do. So my role as the gift recipient is to be available for His purposes and obedient to the path He opens before me. I've had opportunities to lead that I could never have imagined or asked for as I focused less on the role and more on what God is doing that I can be part of. The leadership opportunity may not look as I expect, but obedience allows me to play a role in accomplishing His purposes on earth--and it doesn't get better than that!

Great reading Sally! I'm a mother of 3 and thinking and praying about the possibility of a 4th!, a wife to a very busy, self-employed electrician who has built his family a beautiful home by hand during these past five years and who has no real set time for being home with his family. As well, I am our churches Worship Leader for our contemporary worship service and direct our Praise Team. I received the degrees and professional experience, got the plaque on the door. I did what I did because I felt it was Gods leading, I was using his gifts He gave me. I was very happy doing what I did. However, Gods plans are bigger then ours and so much more interesting! Where I had a deep down dream to sing, I never saw a way to get there! But, no pay-check, more responsibilities at home,lots of volunteer hours, a formal call to the position I hold, a very small paycheck and lots of hours later, Gods put me in a position that I never thought possible and love incredibly!

At first, my position was held in question by the church body in general, then my position and me being a women holding it became a bit of an issue. I thank the Lord that our pastors- Rev. Doug Hood and Rev. Elizabeth Wilson backed the position and myself with bibilical truth and consistant uplifting of my God given abilities. In their backing, God has used myself and all those I lead to further His purposes. I'm forever humbled by this. The song is so true: God will make a way, when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me.

To other gals out there, keep pressing on with your eyes looking toward Him and Him alone. Obstacles will come and go and maybe in our own power, we might be able to maneuver around them but God can REMOVE them! He's got the eyes to see whats coming and can place faithful people in our paths who will help ease the way. It's easy for us women to have the "take it all on" attitude we've been taught in our society to do just that and people allow us to!- but in Gods plan- He removes that burden for us. Keep your eyes open and ask the Holy Spirit to assist you in helping you see folks who are on your team, are being used by God in other leadership ways and saddle up next to them. Just see how God can work! Gods blessing to you in your ministry!

Thanks Lynne, that was encouraging.

I just can't resist this

regarding your quote:"The women at Jesus’ tomb didn’t wait for permission. They went, they saw, they acted, they spoke. And the world was changed."

I think it was Joyce Meyer who said, "And where were the men anyway, at home in bed?"

WE HAVE WOMEN CONFERENCE ON 6,7,8 AND 9 APRIL 2007.THE THEME OF THE CONFERENCE IS let us give way for women kenya. WE THEREFORE INVITE YOU TO COME AND FACILITATE ON THE SAME.
WITH HIGHEST REDARG
SALIM MAYEKI SHABAN

YES, what am I waiting for??? I enjoyed your encouraging article! How do I get started with my own "URL"? It seems as though (and I know I do) have so much inside of me to share with others and vice-versa through this format.

WOW! I totally embrace this article as well as the comments that follow. I have known for years that God has gifted me with leadership but for those same years I have longed for the acceptance and acknowledgement of my gifts within the church body. Finally, like one of the other women said, I decided that God didn't gift me for me to get permission to utilize my gifts but he gifted me for His service. It took some time for me to change my mindset from waiting for approval to making God decisions but praise God I'm here now. Thank you for this article, for this website and your encouragement to stretch my wings and soar on the promises of God and using my gifts for His glory!!

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