I was thinking recently about how I started my leadership journey, and on the surface, it just doesn’t make any sense. After all, I was an introvert, very shy and lacking confidence, as a comment from a junior high school teacher on a report card had pointed out years earlier. At the time, I was in college and working as a part-time minimum wage cleaner, cleaning the corporate headquarters building for the organization I would eventually spend my nearly 38-year career with. I didn’t have dreams of going into leadership. In fact, I don’t recall having any clear thoughts on what I wanted to do vocationally after I got out of college. The degree I was working on was in business administration, with a concentration in marketing. I had no idea that I would end up spending my entire career in leadership, along with serving in leadership in the church for nearly 27 years now. But God had a plan.
As I wrote in my book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace, one of my cleaning supervisors asked me if I wanted to be a Floor Supervisor, which would mean I would “supervise” (I put this in quotes because I had no idea how to supervise or lead anyone), one person, a likeable high school student named Greg. I would be paid a few more cents per hour, and have responsibility for the overall cleanliness of one of the secured data processing floors each evening. That’s it. That’s how my leadership journey started. I never pursued leadership. You could say it pursued me. I believe that I was called to lead.
Some people pursue leadership for the wrong reasons – more money (salary and bonuses), status, ego, power, etc. However, I believe that there is a better reason to lead. I believe those who become servant leaders are called to lead. John Maxwell writes in his book Leadershift that “Ego drives you. Calling draws you.” There are many ways that we could describe leadership. I’ll break it down simply, and say that leadership is:
- Casting a compelling vision of a better future.
- Influencing people to believe in that vision enough to follow you.
- Developing and multiplying leaders.
- Successfully executing on the vision.
Does this sound like something that vocationally you feel that you were created to do? Does it excite you and make you want to seek out a mentor to help you grow into a leader that others will want to follow?
In my reading, I’ve come across a few questions that may help you determine your calling, and for the sake of this article, if you are called to lead. Matt Perman, in his book What’s Best Next, introduces us to the concept of a Life Goal, which he tells us is our “What”, his word for our calling. John Maxwell agrees, writing in Leadershift, “Finding your calling is like finding your why—the reason you exist, your purpose for living.” Perman offers these questions to help you identify your Life Goal or calling:
- What would you do if you had all the money you needed and could do whatever you wanted?
- What would you do if you could do only one thing in the next three years?
R.C. Sproul, in his book Can I Know God’s Will?, gives us these additional questions:
- What can I do?
- What do I like to do?
- What would I like to be able to do?
- What should I do?
- What would I most like to do if I didn’t have to please anyone in my family or my circle of friends?
- What would I like to be doing ten years from now?
As I mentioned above, I didn’t have any sense of my calling when I began my leadership journey many years ago. Why not spend some time with these questions to help discern if leadership is your calling. Please share other questions of reflection that have helped you discern your calling.