The one thing I’ve learned about leadership

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My senior year of college I was named as editor of the student newspaper. I couldn’t believe it. I would oversee about 70 to 80 other students and the five-day production of the newspaper.

I didn’t sleep much that year. I would dream of horrible things happening: that we’d print a blank front page, that we’d misspell the university president’s name, that I’d fail.

I had this prayer I would say every day on my way to the office. I remember waiting for the train to pass, sitting in my idling truck and saying, “Dear God, please give me the discernment and skill to make decisions tonight. Help the staff put out a paper that glorifies you. Thank you for this opportunity to serve my school.”

Green light.

On really rough nights when we had half the editors out sick or our main story fall through, I remember going home at dinner and praying again. That one went more like this: “Dear Lord, I need you to hold it down for me. Because I need to hold it down for them. It’s in your hands.”

At the end of the night, when I’d walk out the door and the clock tower would chime 15 minutes before midnight, I’d pray again, “OK, God. Thank you. But let’s not do that again.”

I made so many mistakes that year. There are a million things I could have done better, but here’s what I learned about leadership that year: It starts with Christ.

In the week before my senior year started, I attended a leadership conference with about 50 other student leaders. In the first morning at the camp, I woke up early because I couldn’t sleep. I was uneasy bunking with strangers and staying at a campsite. I walked down a gravel path toward the lake to get some air when I saw four of five other students spread out around the lake, barefoot and reading their bibles and praying.

I will never forget that image of a handful of student leaders starting their day off with the Lord, and I carried that image with me that year.

We won an award for our paper that year and we put out one of the most memorable issues, but none of that is a testament to my leadership.

Because I was a nervous wreck.

Because I was broken.

Because I was the last person who should’ve been leading that paper, and the only way I did was because of Christ.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

In a meeting with another student leader at the end of the year, he confessed he never used to pick up the newspaper until that year. My goal had been to make the paper more relevant and more accurate and we changed the culture of that paper that year.

But we didn’t do it because of my deadlines or my meetings or my pep talks. We did it because God showed up in my weakness and showed up in those black and white pages. Every day.

NOTE: I’m linking up at The High Calling today.

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7 thoughts on “The one thing I’ve learned about leadership

  1. Amanda, this takes me back to my years as editor of a high school publication, then a columnist for my college paper. Oh the days!

    Editing The High Calling is just as crazy. Some days everything goes well. Most of the time, though, I find myself responding to a lot of little, tiny crises. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Love it Amanda! You had me at “It starts with Christ.” As someone transitioning in leadership, what a great reminder to not take our weaknesses too seriously, but to bring them to Jesus and let him do the work through us! Great post!

  3. Dena Dyer says:

    Amanda, thanks for linking up to The High Calling. We’re going to feature your story tomorrow, June 17th at 2 p.m. Congrats! 🙂

  4. Sabrina says:

    I enjoyed this post, Amanda. Though it can sound cliche, starting with Christ is the only way to have a good start–for any and every thing. Thanks for showing this in a real way.

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