you didn't have to be perfect – not in my neighborhood

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been listening to a podcast called Lead Stories with Jo Saxton and Steph Williams.  Each episode they spend time talking about leadership and answering questions that pertain to leadership.  It’s been a great addition to my rotation and sparks a lot of interesting thoughts.
So in my desire to blog more, I’ve decided to try and do a weekly response to their podcasts that I’ll maybe call Tuesdays in Leadership … for lack of a better name.
Last week’s episode was all about defining leadership and then Jo and Steph asked each other about their earliest experiences with leadership.  It was really cool to hear both of them tell their stories about when and how they began realizing they were leaders – that they had influence over others.
A common thread for the two of them was they had people who pointed out their leadership skills from early on.  Whether it was parents or members of their faith community, they had voices telling them that they were leaders.
Looking back at my early years – it was obvious I was a leader.  I grew up on a street full of kids where I was on the older end.  In the grand scheme of being a kid, it’s only natural to look to the oldest (and loudest) kid as the leader of all the kids.  And I took that role willingly.  I got us all into varying amounts of trouble by pushing the boundaries our parents had set for us.
In those early years, I can see my parents trying to redirect my leadership skills – but as a rambunctious kid it felt more like they were squashing me.  I saw being a leader as a bad thing because I often got punished for it.  In my childhood mind I couldn’t see that they were trying to teach me to use my influence well.  That my punishment was more about my behavior than about my ability to get the support of the neighborhood behind me.
I didn’t really start getting it until I was in middle school.  I had just started dancing and doing theater when the owner of our Performing Arts Center started putting me in charge of little things.  It started with sweeping up or taking stock in the store and built up to helping run the younger kids’ rehearsals.  She invested in me, teaching me how to teach others.  How to be encouraging, how to be stern but not too strict.
Fast forward a few years and cross the country a bit, after I started attending church regularly, I got another chance to lead.  The children’s pastor at my church asked if I wanted to teach Sunday School.  To this day, it blows my mind that she picked me – this 17 year old from a dysfunctional family who had just found Jesus to teach a bunch of Kindergarteners.  I had a small class and it was all mine.  That year was so formative for me.  It started me on the path of ministry that would eventually lead me to here.  Pastor of Christian Formation, calling out leadership in my own students and trying to find ways for them to shine.
Fun fact – those Kindergarteners that I taught are graduating from high school this year.
The thing I love about this podcast is that they continuously go back to the idea that we are all leaders.  We all have influence over others in some realm.  As parents, as older siblings, as friends, as leaders in the church – in unconventional ways and formal ways.
So I encourage you all to think through your earliest memories of becoming a leader.  Who took a chance on you?  Who encouraged you and showed you how to lead?

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