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A Reluctant Leader

It happened a few years ago: I was ecstatic! I had gotten the news from my wife just as I was getting home from the office. In a way, it’s a good thing she didn’t tell before I left, or on the way home – because I don’t know if I would have been able to drive!
Why was I so pumped? Our 13 year old daughter was nearing the end of her 8th grade year, looking forward to middle school graduation. Her 8th grade class did their own “superlatives”, and – she got the superlative for “Best Leader”!!!
Whenever a parent gets good news about one of their children, they tend to get a little prideful – right? Not that that is a bad thing – unless they become obnoxious, and can’t keep their mouths shut about it. I can get a little obnoxious if I’m not too careful, but I usually don’t go too far over the edge.
Anyway, back to the story. I couldn’t wait for my daughter to get home from a friend’s house (where surely she was busy heading up a group planning for their post-graduation activities), so I could congratulate her.
After a couple of hours, she walks in, and I hug her and tell her, “I’m so proud of you!!!” She said, “Why?” I tell her with glowing enthusiasm, “You won ‘Best Leader’ in your class!”
“Oh.”, she said. “Big deal. Look at Agnes. She won “The Cutest”. Boris won “Best All Round”. Gertrude won ‘Most Athletic’. “ (notice the names are changed here to protect the innocent) “The best I could do was ‘Best Leader’?” she said, “What good is that?”
Needless to say, my daughter’s reaction left me a little deflated. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t on cloud nine about this! After all, her dad loves leading others. (I have to admit I don’t always do a good job at it, but overall, I enjoy it, and people seem to follow – much of the time, anyway). My daughter is a lot like me anyway – down to the ravishing beauty, the vertical impairment, and the big teeth from my Mom’s side of the family (that hopefully she will one day grow into). She could also follow in Dad’s leadership footsteps, and could hopefully do a lot better job than he!
Why wouldn’t she be excited?!
Over the next few days, I wondered a lot about that very question. Why didn’t the ‘Best Leader’ superlative excite her? Some things came to my mind:
  • Thirteen year olds have different priorities than their 40 somethin’ year old (now 50 somethin’ year old) dads. They are into having friends and fun. Responsibilities are relatively few (although they don’t think so) and life is generally easy (although, again, they don’t think so).
  • Young girls are – and perhaps rightfully so - more focused on the things that will bring them significance (and unfortunately – insignificance), than they are helping others find their significance.
  • Young people in general probably underestimate the value of good leadership.

After thinking about it, I realized that each of these three reasons were not only common to a 13-year old. They – all of them - are also characteristic of many adults I have encountered, For example….
  • Leadership is a big responsibility, and so many are reluctant to take it on.
  • Many adults are still seeking their own significance, and can’t imagine influencing others when they feel inadequate themselves.
  • Many adults underestimate the value of good leadership – often because they have so rarely seen it.

Above all, I recognized in my daughter something else that I see in many adults who have the ability to lead: denial about that ability. There are many “leaders” out there who are not exercising leadership to the extent that God has gifted them. The leadership gift is lying dormant within them – waiting to be energized.
What did I take away from this “Best Leader” experience some six or seven years ago? The good news for me is that 1) others observed my daughter’s leadership capabilities, and 2) she has continued to develop and demonstrate those abilities on a pretty regular basis. I can only hope and pray that as she grows into adulthood, she won’t be in denial about it, and will allow those capabilities to develop in her over the years!!!
How about you? Are you in denial?
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