If you are pursuing a leadership position and someone would ask you why, would you have a good answer for them? Is it for the perceived power, money, prestige, title or status that comes with a formal leadership position? Or do you consider it a calling?
Now I guess I should first define what I mean by “calling”. Dictionary definitions of calling include:
- A strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work (such as religious work), and
- The work that a person does or should be doing.
The Bible speaks of calling a number of times. For example, we are called to God in our salvation. A good passage to illustrate this meaning of calling is in the so-called “Golden Chain” of Romans 8:30:
And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.
As I’ve mentioned previously, Os Guinness has written in his excellent book The Call, that our primary calling as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him (think of the above verse). Our secondary calling, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations. It is the latter meaning of calling that I am writing about here.
Now I never intended to be a leader. It wasn’t something that I pursued. I guess I would call myself a reluctant leader. As an introvert, who tended toward shyness and a lack of confidence, being a leader was certainly a stretch and to be honest, it still can be at times.
When working for a contract cleaning company while attending college, one of the managers reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to take on a little more responsibility. The new assignment would result in a few cents more per hour so I said yes. As time went on I would take on more and more responsibility. And just like that, I’ve now been in a leadership position at a Fortune 100 company for more than 35 years, an elder in my church for nearly 20 years, and have served on the leadership team for two professional organizations. Today, I can say that I see leadership as a calling.
I’m still an introvert and still learning daily how to be a better leader. As a life-long learner, I hope that continues for as long as I live. See my article about what I’ve learned from the leaders I’ve been blessed to work with here. John Maxwell often states that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. I continue to strive to be a leader that others will want to follow.
In my “Calling, Vocation and Work” class near the end of my time at Covenant Seminary, we were assigned to write a course paper on a vocation. I chose to write on leadership; in that paper I wrote:
Although leadership was not the direction that I thought I would go while in college (nor was I a believer at that time), it is the vocation that God has placed me in and equipped me for. The Scripture verse that I most associate with my work is Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (ESV)
Why do I see leadership as my calling? Here are four reasons:
- Being a leader, particularly a servant leader, aligns well with my faith (see my article “4 Reasons Why I Aspire to be a Servant Leader”. I enjoy coming alongside people (team members, mentees, etc.) and doing whatever I can to help them solve problems, develop and succeed in their vocations. After all, I see Jesus as the greatest example of being a servant leader. An excellent book to read on this subject is Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.
- As a leader, I help to drive results. Driving results helps my team or organization to succeed. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from leading a team to a goal or achievement.
- As a leader, I help people to be successful. Ken Blanchard writes that he tries to help everyone “get an ‘A’. I like to help the members of my team rise to the level or position that they are capable of (and interested in). I also enjoy helping emerging leaders to get into a formal leadership position through mentoring relationships.
- As a leader, I help people to play to their strengths. I’ve seen the powerful difference a change in work assignments that better align to an individual’s strengths, can make. People are more energized, excited and passionate about their work when we can find them work that aligns to their strengths.
Those are just a few reasons why I feel that leadership is a calling for me. But we can also have multiple (secondary) callings. Jeff Goins in his book The Art of Work talks about having a portfolio of callings. If someone were to ask you what your calling is, what would you say?