Leadership · 4 February 2012

Contrary to the saying, leaders are not born. I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by strong men (like my dad, my uncles, and our pastor) and women (like my mom, my aunts, and my wife) who exhibit many outstanding leadership qualities. I have been fortunate to learn leadership traits from them all. A couple weeks ago, our pastor mentioned a bunch of those leadership qualities. But it was during his sermon that he demonstrated one of the most important ones – vulnerability.

Pastor Nate talked about some important aspects of leadership as it pertains to church and family. He mentioned being courageous and leading by example and being a servant leader. Whether we are leading at work, at home, or at church, we need these qualities. Leaders need to be courageous to stand up for what is right or to stand for or against a certain policy or law. Leaders need to practice what they preach. And true leaders need to serve those they are leading, whether it be by clearing obstacles in the way of getting a job done or by washing the feet of those being led. Pastor Nate said that all of us need these leadership qualities in our lives, because, regardless of our stations in life, we are all leaders.

Certainly, presidents, CEOs, managers, principals, preachers, and teachers can easily be recognized a leaders. But are new hires, students, sons, and daughters really leaders? Pastor Nate answered that question affirmatively with a one word definition of leadership – influence. We all have influence over others. We all help shape the ideas, thought, opinions, and even actions of others. Therefore, we are all leaders. Again, I agreed with his assessment of leadership in the family and church and saw the application to every arena of life. Still, I hoped he would mention the leadership quality I value most.

At the beginning of his message, Pastor Nate had asked for responses to the question of what leadership meant. I immediately thought of vulnerability. Not being one to give shout out answers very often, I kept it to myself. I thought about vulnerability because I have lived my whole life seeing my dad lead by being vulnerable. It might take him quite a bit to admit he was ever wrong, but he always does when he is. And I have seen him show his emotions –laughing or crying – regardless of who was watching. Most people fear being vulnerable because they believe it portrays weakness. My dad always showed me it was a leadership trait which inspired loyalty and love.

While Pastor Nate did not mention vulnerability in his message, I have seen it from him often and he did not disappoint on this day when he talked about leadership. He had just finished talking about a time when he was frustrated as a parent. He was counseling with his father (also a pastor), who asked him a pointed question. He asked whether Pastor Nate had told his kids he accepted them as they are. At that point of his story, Pastor Nate turned to face his family in the congregation. He focused all his attention on them and said how he accepted each one and how he was proud of how he saw Jesus in them. Tears formed in his eyes as he spoke and even though he held it together, he showed us all that vulnerability is indeed a quality of leadership, just as my dad has always shown me.

Most leaders outside the church would probably disagree with the idea that vulnerability is a leadership quality. They would disagree because it demonstrates weakness and showing weakness is not what leaders should do. I would argue that only the strongest can be vulnerable because it does indeed show weakness. And only the strongest can show others their vulnerabilities. Many leaders might also argue that they do not need to be vulnerable because they are not seeking love but merely loyalty and respect or even fear from those they lead. I would argue that more loyalty and respect come from love than has ever come from fear. Certainly, I would follow a great leader who I love into the maelstrom, but a leader who I fear would need to push me into even a small storm.

The strong leaders in my life have shown me the qualities of leadership that I want to exhibit with my life. I like to hear them listed for the sake of reminding me what I am striving for as I seek to be a good leader in my home and in my community. But more than that, I like to see demonstrations of what good leadership is. I am fortunate to have such great examples of strong leaders in my life like my dad and our pastor. I am glad I can rely on them to show me what a leader is.

Thank you, Dad and Pastor Nate and all the other leaders in my life. For being strong. For being vulnerable. For being good leaders. And for showing me that unlike the saying, I did not need to be born a leader.

© 2012 Michael T. Miyoshi

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