Why are you here?
At a certain point, you made a choice. You made a choice to go into the workplace. You made a choice to step up and volunteer in a group. You made a choice to accept the promotion. You may have made other choices. The choice to do your work excellently may have drawn the attention of a supervisor. Your choice to engage your co-workers or fellow group members may have caught the eye of one seeking out a leader. Your choice to continue developing as a person may have led to others trusting you, believing in your ability, and seeking to follow wherever you might lead.
Regardless of how you got here, you had a choice. A series of choices really, made available because of what you were doing where you were when a leader was needed. You had a choice.
In seeking to understand leadership, we must give up the notion that we were forced into it. The situation may have unfolded in a way different than you anticipated, but at some point you made a choice.
I made a choice. I decided to do what made sense to me while working in a position that was newly created. Questioning eyes were focused on me as I was the first significant hire my boss, who was also new to the organization, made in his tenure. His ideas and mine were aligned, yet we were two in an organization not used to what we brought to the table. Skepticism abounded. Yet he and I moved forward. After 6 months, the first results were in. The skepticism died down a bit, but they wondered whether these positive results would last. In my time there, we transformed the culture in a culture that didn’t believe transformation could happen. We made a choice to do the unpopular thing.
The disciples had a choice too. They watched Jesus be crucified, a situation they would not have chosen or even saw coming. And they chose to come together. They feared the authorities, they didn’t know what was coming, but they chose to stay together. And when Jesus rose, they chose to continue following Him. In Acts, as Jesus spoke with His disciples, they asked the question burning in their hearts:
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” –Acts 1:6, ESV
The burning question: are we there yet? So much transpired, so many unimaginable events had taken place, and the disciples asked the question we all ask. Are we there yet? Jesus’ response brought what Jesus’ responses often bring, both comfort and anticipation.
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” –Acts 1: 7-8, ESV
Comfort that the Spirit would come. Anticipation that more was to come that they would not understand. They would be witnesses outside of their current zone of operation. They couldn’t have known exactly what that meant. And in ways, they were called to something for which they did not initially volunteer. That is exactly life. We can choose to follow or not. And when we choose to follow, it may mean paths we didn’t know we would encounter, or situations we would never have chosen individually.
Regardless of your circumstances, you have a choice. It is critical that you embrace that your choices brought you here, and your choices will determine how you exist and behave. You have power in the situation. And you will battle fear. You will battle uncertainty. And, let’s face it, as women, we are more likely to battle discrimination based on our gender alone. And yet, in each situation, we have a choice.
Remove the notion from your thinking that you are stuck. Tremendous power lies in the understanding that you have personal power and control in a situation. Ask any parent of a finicky-eating toddler if there is power in making a choice. Many a household experiences the tantrums of the small one unwilling to eat what is set before them. There is power in choice. Realize that you have power. Whatever the situation, you have power.
In making the choice to follow, the disciples individually chose to receive power. The power they received came in the form of the Holy Spirit. But do not confuse power with complete control. For the sake of becoming better leaders, we must remove the notion that we are powerless, that we have no choice. You have a choice. Will you lead?
POINT OF REFLECTION: Is there a leadership situation where you feel like you have no choice? Do you feel cornered? Take a step back and think of what choices you do have. Step away from the issue where you feel like you have no choice: what other choices are there?
There is always a choice. It may be that you need the job. You can’t afford to move or change jobs. Or maybe the industry you’re in is so small that leaving now would be detrimental long-term. There are many areas over which you have no choice. But there are choices to make.
That need for a salary and medical benefits is real—so is the reality that you can change your attitude. You can find something you enjoy about the situation and focus on that. Or you can choose to take those legally-recommended break periods. Let’s face it, at a particular point in your career, legally-mandated breaks are a thing of the past. You work until the work is done. I’ve fallen into the trap that if I don’t take that 30 minute meal break, I can stop working 30 minutes earlier. And that logic works, but it doesn’t wash when you’ve wrung yourself completely out. Taking that meal break may extend the work day, but at the end of the day, I have energy remaining for all the other things I do in life.