“The role of leaders is not to get other people to follow them, but to empower other people to lead.”Bill George: 2015 (Finding True North)
I’ve been taking a course this summer that has forced a lot of ‘retrospective meaning making’. As Kierkergaard says, “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” Where do our values come from? They don’t simply fall from the sky or come packaged in our DNA, but are formed through the years from events in our lives that mark us, and often initially negatively but once reframed, become pillars of meaningful and redemptive character.
As we are formed over our lifetime, our motivations meet our values and continue to shape us into focus, particularly in ‘crucible’ or valleys where the proverbial rubber of our character meets the road. Through studies of 1000’s of biographical leadership studies (it’s actually up to 5,000!) many patterns are witnessed in the development of leaders, those who bring lasting influence for good in the world.
The concept of ‘vocation’, or calling is something that I’m personally intrigued by. As a young 19 year old I was in Dallas, Texas when I encountered a trajectory shifting ‘awe-inspiring’ moment when God touched my life and called me into His mission to bring hope in Jesus to the nations. By looking backwards, seeing God’s providence, connections, resources, and many movements in my life my faith is assured, and my hope fixed. Each of our stories into this ‘vocation’ (which comes from ‘vocal, voice, calling’) is different, but bears many similar patterns.
We grow from doing, into being. In our earlier stages we explore, we learn about ourselves, our gifts, natural talents, and through various context and relationships begin to discover and hone into our vocation. Through crisis moments (usually in our 40-50’s) we are faced with the realization that our life is half over (maybe), that the person we have been living into, at least to some degree, has been rooted in wrong places, namely fear, insecurities, motivations and striving instead of accepting who we truly are. If we’re successful, we’ll learn to surrender, which I believe is a result only through the deep love of Jesus, believing it, and offering our ‘selves’ the same mercy Jesus gives. For most of my life, I was living into a false projected version of myself, the person I wanted to become, but it was an allusion, and through failure and limitations God graciously grounded my false self into the ground – I gave up, and found rest. A byproduct of that rest was finding myself again, the person I was created to be, the restored, authentic, and free ‘me’. Life has been taking on new meaning as motivations cease from striving, and have, or I should say ‘are’ moving from doing, to being.
I’ve been compiling, translating and mentoring a small group of emerging leaders. Some are from Kiev, Minsk, and here in our area. We meet on Zoom, and I’m using a lot of this course, as well as another mentoring course to arm them with resources to process, activities to do in understanding their own historical, cultural and present contexts. Our goal? To live into the reality of God’s presence, embracing today, the work of the Spirit and deep love of God as we journey into the call God has over each of our lives. It’s exciting to do this in safe, vulnerable spaces, and I am hopeful that in the future we can continue to form the material into modules that can be reproduced and bless the emerging family of faith in our culture.
If you are interested in some of the courses reading and want to process your own journey with some of these themes of value, calling, giftedness, transitions… here are some recommended books. Feel free to reach out to me for more .
Cahalan, Kathleen A. and Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore. 2017. Calling all Years Good: Christian Vocation throughout Life’s Seasons. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Clinton, J. Robert. 2005. Strategic Concepts That Clarify a Focused Life. Barnabas Publishers.
George, Bill with Peter Sims. 2015. Discover Your True North: Becoming an Authentic Leader. Jossey-Bass. ISBN:
Palmer, Parker J. 1999. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Jossey- Bass.
Smith, Gordon T. 2011. Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential. Intervarsity Press.