Yesterday I chatted with a lady new to our church. She commented that when she was on the leadership team at her previous church, it was difficult to continually “stay strong,” to always “have it all together,” and to always remain upbeat. I have a hunch it was also exhausting.
“I probably lead from a different place,” I responded. “I lead from my own brokenness.” She did not try to hide her shock. I don’t think she had ever thought of this before.
As a leader I subscribe to a lot of leadership blogs, newsletters, etc. While most of them are inspiring, challenging and helpful, sometimes it becomes wearying to read about all the pounding success strategies. “5 Things Successful Leaders Do.” “Top Strategies for….” “Critical Elements Every Leader Must…” I have to admit, my life is organized, most often my days are ordered in successful ways and there is something about leading from a place of strength that appeals to me. Yet more times than I like to admit, I am equally fraught with feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and often found wanting among all the leadership gurus.
I am struck with the thought that most often my most authentic ministry comes from my own brokenness. I don’t disregard the skills and talents given me, they serve we well, but in the end I am fully aware that leading from a place of sufficiency often becomes a way of self-protecting (so others don’t see how sacred I really am), leaves my activist ego in tact, and ultimately, denies what is most human about us: our shared brokenness.
If, as leaders, we have to be the ones who “have it all together” we stay in “fix-it” mode and offer wounded souls theological constructs rather than offer the simple gift of presence and a shared vulnerability and imperfection. Someone has said that the most life-giving words you can offer another is “Me too!” I think it’s one of the most holy places to be. Embracing our own brokenness requires humility and a willingness to admit we are still on a journey to our own healing. It requires a dependency to receive something outside of ourselves. This is not the end of our leadership (although it can feel that way)…it is simply a beginning of something even more fruitful, more transformative, more life-giving.
Henri Nouwen summed it up well: “In our own woundedness, we can become sources of life for others.”
The good new is this is not an either/or situation. I can and should flourish in my gifts all the while knowing in God’s kingdom our wounds are just as transformative as our strengths.