It's been an interesting few weeks in the media. We've watched towns literally destroyed by tornadoes. We've watched a fairytale wedding where the "commoner" became the "princess." We've watched breaking news unfold as Osama Bin Laden was killed. In the wake of Osama's death, the political volatility of our nation has everyone becoming a critic. As I watch the commentary, I am reminded of one basic truth. Leadership equals loneliness.
Ruth Haley Barton writes in her book, "Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership" that "Any leader who cannot endure profound levels of loneliness will not last long." This is a universal truth whether you are leading in the political world, military, ministry, education, or even amongst family and friends. I believe it can be very surprising to young leaders just how lonely it gets. Even for seasoned leaders there are times where we make decisions, share a vision, handle a conflict, etc that lead us to a new place loneliness, critique, and isolation.
I see young adults entering ministry because church is where they were always accepted. I think the same is probably true of those wanting to pursue leadership in other areas, like politics or business, because when they were in leadership as a young person they were always encouraged, that was the way to popularity and the way to know you had arrived. Funny how that all changes in adulthood. Suddenly being in leadership means that you have to be willing to be the one is not accepted but who is critiqued. You have to realize that leadership will not make you popular, or prove your competence. In fact, there will people with whom you will always be unpopular and will always seem incompetent.
So, why would anyone want to step up into leadership in adulthood? I cannot speak for all of you but for me it is because I know that I was gifted and called for leadership. I feel it is a waste of my gifts for me not to be in leadership. The people pleasing side of me has died to the part of me that wants the best for others, whether they like me or not. I seek to make the world a better place. I have to own my own commitment to leadership even in the loneliest of times. That is what makes me a good leader. Leading not to please, pushing through the loneliness, and using my gifts for what I know is right.