Genuine Leaders Have Great Faith

True mentors have compassion, humility, and grace — and can be found just about anywhere

Growing up, who or what inspired you most to be a leader?

“My mother and my Easy Bake Oven,” was not the answer one would expect from Major General Julie A. Bentz, vice director of the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency. (Yes, she’s  the person responsible for keeping us safe. Her specific job is to keep foreign nuclear weapons from being detonated on U.S. soil.)

I heard her speak at the ALPHA Leadership Breakfast along with many other luminaries in their fields — a sort of who’s who panel of world leaders in science, military, diplomacy, finance, and marketing. The panel was held as a Myth Busters dialogue session. They were there to let us know that what you think may be true is not always necessarily so.

Each panel member was asked a series of questions about leadership. Here are a few of the surprising answers:

1.) Kindness is the main ingredient for being a great leader. Unlike what you may hear in a “winning through intimidation” book, each one of these amazing leaders said it was the kindness of a mentor, one who really cared and cheered them on to greatness. that made the biggest difference in their lives.

Are you kind to those whom God has placed in your path to encourage to greatness?

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2.) Speak up! We were told that silence will kill a mission. If you are angry about something or disagree with the way a member of your team has handled (or didn’t handle) an issue, the worst thing you can do is nurse your anger in silence. Instead, lovingly confront the problem, talk about it rationally and then, get on with the mission.

Do you have a grudge? Are you nursing a hurt? Pray about it, then go and speak to your team. Don’t let silence kill your mission (or your marriage).

3.) Failure is to be expected. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t give up! The big picture is what really matters, not everyday little set backs. What are your long-term goals? Is what you are dealing with really going to make or break it? If not, keep moving ahead.

Little by little, you will succeed if you keep your eyes on the big picture. We must learn from our mistakes, then restore those who fail. Some of the greatest lessons learned were through failures these leaders experienced. Secular = short-sighted, worldly or temporal. Lift your eyes upward. Eternity is our goal.

Are you further down the road this year in your goals than you were last year? Spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally? Has someone failed you in your mission (husband, child)? Do you need to restore them? Keep the ball moving forward to the finish line.

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4.) Naivete is OK. Believe it or not, it is OK to be a leader and not have all of the answers. We are all still learning. And if we take the stance that we know it all, we will not only miss out on learning the answers, we will miss the opportunity to elevate others who do know the answers.

To lift others up is a true sign of humility. You do not need to be the most important person in the room, even if you own it! A great leader knows who to ask to get the right answers and is humble enough to ask.

Are you secure enough to say, “I don’t know it all. Who knows this answer? Thank you for sharing that!” Your humility may go further than your bravado. Need help? Get it! (That applies to marriage and parenting as well.)

The answer to, “Growing up, who or what inspired you the most to be a leader?” was as different and beautiful as each panel member’s expertise. One said her grandmother — who went back to nursing school at age 50 and worked well into her 80s and never gave up — was her inspiration.

One said he had many, many influencers, and each was like a baton passed as a new challenge arose. One said his mentor was a very kind and much younger employee, as well as a pastor who asked the hard question: “Are you in a relationship with God or just going through the motions?” His pastor showed him that Christianity is about a relationship, not just a religion. Once he learned this, his life began to work.

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But my favorite answer went something like this. “When I was a little girl, my mother used to do the baking for all of the farm hands on Thursdays. She made cakes and pies and all we needed for the entire week. She would drag my chair up next to her at the counter and she would roll out a pie, giving me a small dab of dough to roll out with my miniature rolling pin as well. She put hers into the big pans and then into the oven and I would place mine into my petite pans and then into my Easy Bake Oven.”

“My mother made me feel that my little job was as important as her big job,” this woman continued. “Just like God, we each have our ‘little job to do’ as part of His Kingdom, but He makes us feel that ours is just as important as the next one, as we are all in it together, working for the same goal — eternity.”

Are you the kind of leader (even if you feel you are “just a mom”) who influences those around you so that they feel that their job is valued and important because we are all a part of much bigger task?

Do all that you do, with great love, kindness, humility, sincerity, boldness and transparency. If you do, by God’s grace, the world can’t help but be a much better place for us having been here.

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“So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.’” (John 13:12-17)

Dear Lord,

I want to be a “great leader,” even if that just means influencing others at my kitchen table or on the soccer field or at my office. Please give me the grace to be loving, kind, humble, sincere, bold, and transparent, for without Your grace, I am just me. I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Melissa Overmyer is the founder of Something Greater Ministries in Washington, D.C., and has been teaching the Bible for over 30 years.

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