Lessons Learned from the Girls of Ablor

D-group girls | 2016

The lie of good enough. Am I good enough? Did I do enough? Could I have done more? Am I sufficient to meet this need, accomplish this task, be this friend, the list goes on. This lie continues to follow me in everything I do.

As I reflect on this season of graduation, endings and beginnings, hope and a little fear, I am quickly filled with my own doubts and aware of my own inadequacies. I over-analyze farewell speeches, words left unsaid or said in haste, patience lost, frustrations aired, and grace not given.

In these moments, my hope is (once again) in my performance. Was I good enough for my girls? The answer is a resounding NO. However, my job, my hope, and my purpose is to point them to the One who is good enough; infinitely so. My confidence is in God’s provision for them – not their own and certainly not mine.

Looking back, I realize I’ve grown just as much as my girls. I am not the same person I was when we were all just young babes trying to figure out life and high school. A few things I’ve learned:

  1. Patience. Hard work and progress are slow. Be faithful in the small things and one day you will see they’ve become the big things. Success and growth don’t come overnight, but don’t lose hope. Keep fighting. God is faithful to the end.
  2. Leadership is not about me. My purpose in leading these girls is not for my fame, ego, appreciation, or anything else. I was most frustrated when I felt disappointed because the girls weren’t performing the way I wanted instead of remembering we are all a work in progress – me especially! I’ve learned to trust in God who is bigger than all of us and realize that growth is slow, messy, and sometimes painful – for me and them. My patience is greatest when I remember I’m not their savior.
  3. Laugh. Y’all these girls are Pranksters with a capital “P”. They have pulled off a long list of ever increasing skillful and well-thought out pranks. They’ve kept me on my toes and taught me to never underestimate the craftiness of high school girls. They are funny, goofy, and creative. Laughter and the mutual bond of pranking your leaders is a great base for friendship and vulnerability. Also, revenge is a dish best served publicly 🙂
  4. Give grace then give it again. To my girls, to my self, friends, family, and strangers. It’s easy to think the worst of people, but most of the time we are all just trying our best. Be patient, forgiving, kind, and give grace. I have never looked back and thought, Man, I was too gracious to that person. I should have been harder on them.
  5. Pray. Prayer softens my heart and does more than any of my words or actions could do. When I pray I remind myself I am not their savior. I am not in control. My heart is softened and hopeful after prayer, but I still don’t do it often enough.

It has been such a privilege to lead a group of high-school girls for four years. Some of my favorite memories include time with them. We laugh, joke, and talk about hard realities. These girls have challenged me to think more deeply, laugh more often, and not be afraid to take risks. I am so excited to see how far we have all come and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

To the girls of Ablor, thank you!

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Lessons on Leadership from a Young Leader

anxiety

Sweaty Palms. A knot in my stomach. The taste of adrenaline in my mouth. You may think I’m about to run a race or compete in an event, but that’s the feeling when I post a vulnerable blog post. Insecurity, hesitation, doubt…

Isn’t young leader just another way of saying unproven, untested, not real. What have I really done to prove myself yet. What if this is it – this is as far as I go?

These are the thoughts I think when I self-describe as a young leader. I get insecure. I think of all the ways I haven’t led well, all the mistakes, all the missed opportunities, all the fears. I think of all the ways I. just. don’t. know. Still, something inside me compels me to move forward and write, so write I will.

Keep moving. Leadership is about action and results. Period. There are enough people with ideas and enough talkers. Enough meetings and enough thinking sessions. Just do it. You must learn to get over yourself, face your fears, and the resist the desire to settle for mediocrity. In most jobs, you won’t be fired for mediocrity. Resist the temptation to stagnate or better yet, find somewhere where excellence is standard and a job well done means giving everything of yourself to achieve it. As I write this, I think of all the things yet unaccomplished. All the times I could have pushed harder, given more. There is a relentless dissatisfaction with my performance and I have yet to figure out if it’s good, bad, or neutral.

There is a constant challenge for leaders, young ones especially, to balance confidence and cockiness, insecurity and humility. I often find myself wavering between these extremes – sometimes day by day or situation by situation. If I think I am performing well then I tend to cockiness. If I feel I am performing poorly then I tend toward insecurity. Age is a factor in leadership, but it is not the ultimate factor – nor is experience. A young leader will be forced to lead those older and more experienced than (s)he is. It is a hard balance and you will mess up. Learn to hold confidence and humility in tension while avoiding the narrow fall into cockiness and insecurity and you will be a much better leader. If you figure out how to do this well, let me know because I. still. don’t. know.

Leaders must know the motivations and reasons behind every decision. Especially as a young leader your decisions will be questioned, examined, and challenged. This is good. It will force you to slow down and think through your decisions. Still, once a decision is made a leader should know and be able to clearly communicate the why behind a decision – even when others disagree. I’m not one to typically shy away from conflict, especially if I feel strongly about an idea or decision. Still, there are times when I leave a conversation emotionally exhausted because I. don’t. know. What if I made the wrong decision. What if I was inconsiderate or worse, obstinate and blinded? What if this is the big blunder I can’t fix?

Lastly, leaders must create other leaders. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the best decisions I’ve made is to coach high school soccer. Each season I tweak, evaluate, and change aspects of my coaching style. This season, my big focus has been on developing our captains and the captain position into a significant leadership position. I want our leaders to feel ownership and responsibility for the team.

To do this, I’ve given them the authority to decide if a missed practice is excused or unexcused. The team talks to the captains first and most absences are handled exclusively by them – including makeups. They also get a significant voice in the team policies and they can let me know if/when I’m pushing too hard. Empowering them requires a lot more work from me on the front end – teaching them to think how I would think and guiding them through decisions, but even now, a few weeks later, it has made my job so much better. I honestly cannot wait to see their growth and the growth of the team throughout the season.

Almost every day I find myself thinking, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know how I will get there. I don’t know how to handle XYZ situation. Still, I love it. I love the uncertainty, the thrill, and yes, the adrenaline. I love learning and I love pushing myself to conquer new challenges. I remind myself of these lessons daily to assure myself that it’s still ok to not know or to make a mistake. I’m sure there are plenty more lessons to be learned and I want to know…

What lessons have you learned that others should know?