“What would you do for the glory of God if you knew you would not fail?” My friend leaned across the table earnestly. “That’s the key question of Student Leadership University 101.” He had just returned from staffing this leadership conference in Orlando and was thrilled to share what he had learned. He mentioned several topics SLU presented, but this question in particular followed me throughout the day. Something about it made me uncomfortable, so I pushed it away and attempted to return to my everyday life.
The question became inescapable this summer, however, when I learned that I had been chosen by my school to attend and staff SLU 101. In resignation, I turned to face this singularly unyielding question, only to discover that it was almost impossible for me to conceive a goal for my life without fear. The ideals I had for my life centered around who I didn’t want to be, who I didn’t want to let down, mistakes I didn’t want to make, and pride I didn’t want to give up. The only room left for my dreams was the space between my fears about my own abilities and comparison with others. During the five weeks I spent in Orlando, SLU 101 showed me that these fears were keeping me from becoming a true servant-leader and I learned three simple action steps all leaders must take.
- First—leaders plan for the future by casting vision and setting goals. No progress can be made without choosing a destination and formulating a plan to reach it. Stating the destination gives others the ability to know whether or not you’ve attained your goal.
- Second—leaders must be willing to speak up. While a leader must have a vision for the future, he or she must be willing to communicate that vision to others at the risk of rejection. A vision can never be fulfilled unless someone has the courage to speak it.
- Third—leaders must operate with clarity despite uncertainty. The future consists entirely of the unknown and the uncertain. Those who are afraid of looking foolish or making the wrong calls will never move forward. Only the brave will pioneer the path to the future.
Anyone can sit on the sidelines and watch others move forward, but only the courageous can plan for the future, communicate a dream, and take action in the face of uncertainty. The truth is, the majority of us are crippled by fear because we define success as personal superiority. There will always be more accomplished, talented, or beautiful people, and fear will always control our actions as long as our dreams center around our personal glory. To become courageous leaders, we must redefine the terms of success and failure for our lives, and this redefinition can only happen at the feet of Jesus. When we truly understand the good news that God gave up His superiority to serve and redeem us, we come to understand two things:
- First—striving for personal recognition and glory is unnecessary for we are both fully known and fully loved by the God of the universe.
- Second—our personal glory is far too small a standard for success. Christ came as a servant and redeemer, and as followers of Jesus, we are invited to enter into His plan of redemption through service to the entire world. When we set aside the pursuit of personal glory and accept this invitation, fear has no place in our lives anymore. With Christ, we may fearlessly prepare for the future, communicate vision, and operate with clarity because the definition of success has now become servanthood, not superiority.
As I journey on from SLU 101, I’m leaving Orlando with a new understanding of leadership. The question that revealed my fears at the beginning of the summer has become the question that will shape my future decisions as I plan, communicate, and operate with clarity.