Many years ago, when I worked for The Leadership Institute, I was arranging an event over the phone with a venue. I told the representative the name of our organization and he immediately asked, “Oh, are you a leader?” I was surprised by the question. It felt so stark. Am I a leader? Even though I had led in various ways for most of my adult life, I did not answer that question without pausing.
Around that same time, I was attending a workout class at the local YMCA. I stopped at the front desk to sign in and the woman behind the counter pointed out two new women who would be in the same class as me that morning.
Once I got into class, I went up to one of the women and introduced myself. I remembered what it was like to be new and thought it would be nice for them to feel welcomed. The woman’s friend came in a minute later and we met. As we were talking, the woman asked me if I was the instructor. I said, “No, I just come here to have fun and exercise.” She responded by saying that I looked like I had authority.
I began to think about her comment. Maybe what she said is something of what it means when Jesus talks about salt and light. The fact that I was open to these women showed a kind of leadership. I wasn’t even going for that. I just wanted to make them feel welcome and I always enjoy meeting new people.
We are all influencers. Even if you don’t want to call yourself a leader, you are still an influencer wherever you go.
So what is a leader? What does it mean to “look like you have authority.” Certainly, I wasn’t leading these women to do anything. I merely took initiative to welcome them. So now we’re getting somewhere. Initiative. Influence.
Many people we interact with don’t think they are leaders because they don’t have a particular title or role. But, from the beginning of Unhurried Living, we have been saying that you do not have to have a position of influence to be a person of influence. Everyone is a leader, an influencer, in some way.
That day, after my workout class, I was thinking about the way the Zumba instructor led us. We all gathered behind her and followed exactly what she was doing. She didn’t call out any the moves, she simply did them in front of us and we copied her. That is one of the distinctives of Zumba and of leadership…followership.
Over the years I had many and various instructors. Without question, my favorite instructors were the ones that were highly skilled, passionate, and connected to the group. Their excellence made me want to reach for that same level. They had done the hard work of achieving their fit body and their ability to teach.
Again, their abilities, modeled before my very eyes, inspired me to grow in my abilities. This is not to say that these skilled women were perfect. Sometimes they forgot a move here or there and we simply kept moving.
In our own lives we can be like these Zumba instructors--not always saying something, but modeling something. Like them, many of us have done the hard work of growing and maturing in Christ. Without getting trapped by perfectionism, we can all do our best to live our lives from the inside out. We can be people who model John 15, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” or Colossians 3, “Set your mind on things above.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”I want to be able to say this to others with authenticity, don’t you?
People may or may not need more information. But their need for modeling lived grace--lived truth, right before their very eyes—this will always be a need.
In that workout room there were women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. We were all at different skill levels and that was okay. Some had been there for a while and knew all of the routines. Some could hold their own but were still learning new routines each time. Others were brand new and didn’t know anything. But each one kept going no matter what. Even the newcomers didn’t stop and give up. They just kept trying even when they were going the wrong way and barely got their feet to go in the right place.
There was an encouraging feeling in the room. The music was loud, the energy was high, and we were all trying to accomplish the same thing – we wanted to be healthy. To accomplish that, we all simply followed the skilled, focused and present leader.
- In what ways are you an influencer to those around you?
- In what ways can you see how living grace often helps others more than the words you speak?
- Who are those in your life that you try to copy? What is it about their lives that inspires you?