by Linda Clark
It was an interesting group I faced that evening. Women had come from all over the state to participate in an annual three-day women's conference. This group was comprised of conference leaders and elected officers of the organization. I knew some of the women, but not much about any of them. We were just a group at that point in time—not a team. Circumstances had brought us together. What tied us together with an unbreakable cord were Christ and a passion for women and their involvement in Kingdom work.
Even with this cord, we were still just a group, perhaps not unlike the band of disciples Jesus gathered around Him during His ministry on earth. Our common desire to share the Good News would keep us together during weeks of transition, several years of re-structuring, and sad times of shared loss among our group. We did not want to remain just a group, however. We wanted to become a team, a team that could be effective in ministering to women in our state. It soon became clear that a team would develop only as its individual members developed as leaders. That realization began an intentional journey to develop equipped leaders who were confident in their abilities and effective in their individual assigned areas of work.
As I look back on those early days, I see God's hand on that group that became a team. These women have felt God's call on their lives to excel in many areas of leadership. Some became national leaders with specialties in age level work. Some became curriculum writers for national mission publications. Others have been chosen to serve on national advisory boards for Christian women's ministry projects and language work. One is currently serving as a vice president of a national women's organization and one served two years as a national officer of an established group of nurses serving in numerous capacities around the world.
Why have these women been so successful in leadership roles? Not only did they feel God's call to ministry, but they had a keen desire to become efficient as well as effective in their work. All of these women were volunteers, so monetary gain did not enter the picture! What did come into play was their commitment to become good stewards of their time, their commitment to be lifelong learners, and their commitment to communicate clearly with women they are training as future leaders.
As I began to reflect on what I considered to be the essentials of leadership, several things came to mind. Through more than thirty years as a women's leader, I have worked with women in local churches—on community projects, in regional settings, and on a national level. I have come to realize that women everywhere have the same basic needs! We all want to have a positive influence on those around us; we all need the fellowship of other Christian women; and all of us desire to use the abilities and talents God has given us. We might not fully understand how God wants to work through us and we may even be hesitant to seek out that will, but the neat thing is that God has a plan for every woman. If she is open to His guidance, she will discover the blessings of being a leader in ways that are unique to her!
Obviously, no two women are alike. When I speak at women's retreats or lead seminars on time management or balancing life's demands, I look out at the women and see such diversity! I'm not thinking just of size, shape, and style. Not even just language differences. I guess I see the potential—the God-given potential—in each of them. God wants us to use our influence for good, to touch others with His love and to be confident in our abilities. While we are unique, we do, however, need some of the same kinds of skills to become effective leaders.
After we titled this book, I did a word search. I discovered some interesting things about the word essential. I started with that one word and was given these synonyms: fundamental, key, basic, primary, elementary, central, axiomatic. I chose key and continued the search, which resulted in: lock opener (hmmmmm). Then basic yielded these words: necessary, root, rudimentary. What about the word primary? These words surfaced: principal, chief, main and highest. I took highest a step further and got: maximum. From taking central to the next level I found: nuclear, pivotal and crucial. Now, chief is an easily understood word, I thought... leading, prominent. Prominent led to conspicuous, which led to salient and notable. I was surprised at the direction salient took: distinct, marked, obvious. Obvious is related to clear, visible, and evident.
If you followed all of this, you already know where I'm headed! When we talk about essentials of leadership, all of the words listed above are relevant. Many a woman when approached to assume a leadership role wonders if she is equipped to handle the responsibilities she is being asked to perform. She asks herself whether she has the skills to work with others, get her points across, be effective in leading a group, or achieve the desired results.
It doesn't matter whether you are leading a school project, heading a team for a publicity presentation at your firm, or teaching a women's Bible study group. The same leadership skills apply to any leadership role. The five leadership essentials that will be addressed in this book are communication, time management, conflict resolution, relationship building, and group building. Each chapter will deal with one of the essentials and has been designed with women's needs specifically in mind. I pray that you will find something in each chapter that speaks to you and helps you become a more effective leader.
Is leadership important then for women today? Absolutely! As I travel I meet women engaged in a myriad of leadership roles ranging from CEOs to mothers to community volunteers to seminar presenters. All of them have learned along the way the essentials, the basics, of what it means to be a leader. For us as Christian women we know that a dependence upon God is the first step to becoming a leader He can use. When that willingness and faith is in place, then the sky is the limit! He will bless us with opportunities to use our skills and talents beyond our wildest imaginations.
It is my belief that these five leadership essentials will unlock your ability to make things happen!
In His Service,
Linda M. Clark
Note: If you wish to contact me, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org