The Weight of Leadership

So Amy and I just returned from a staff retreat in the beautiful mountains of the Dominican Republic. It was our first retreat together and the first since being named In-Country Director of Makarios. Such a sweet time with amazing people, all of whom are dedicated to transforming lives and communities with the Gospel of Jesus. Why do I write about the “weight” of leadership?

To give you a little background, I need to start by saying that my role does not officially begin for another year or so. I am already on the Makarios team as the Director of Partnerships and Program Development, a role that has morphed a few times in the past year. What began as a “development” role to help build partnerships and raise funds for the organization slowly grew to include staff supervision and leadership of one of our main programs while we searched for its new director. I have loved being more involved in the day-to-day operation of our ministries on the ground there, although challenging at times, as I’ve had to connect virtually through spotty internet connections and time zone differences. But all in all, I am blessed to serve with great leaders who live and work there.

My initial connection to Makarios almost 4 years ago began with a conversation about the need for an In-Country Director. It’s a job that naturally requires being…well, In-Country. At that time, and in various conversations since then, we were not in a place as a family that allowed for relocation. We prayed about it and never sensed an open door. Our oldest two were/are finishing high school, and we committed to avoid disruption of their remaining teenage years (something we had already done a few times in church ministry transitions over the past 10 years). So the thought of moving to the DR for this role (or any other) was not in the cards.

But things change. And even though I had prayed that the Lord would provide for this need in other ways, as 2018 came to a close, I could see that the door was opening and that this just might be what He wanted all along. So I began the interview process and decided to trust Him with the results. Just a few weeks ago, I was offered and accepted the job.

Now, I still have lots of Spanish to learn and support to raise before we can make the move. I have started Rosetta Stone and work on that 10-12 hours a week. I am kicking our support-raising in gear again, with the hopes to raise more monthly support (approx $3000 more per month) as well as start-up costs to cover training, language school and moving expenses (approx $40K). That will take up much of my time between now and summer. Our family will spend 6-7 weeks in the DR again, helping support our Groups Ministry team as they work to host mission teams. We get home in late summer, get the oldest two set up for college in the fall, head to missionary training in September and should be on the ground in the DR by mid-October. After months of language school there, I hope to be ready for my new role in the spring of 2020. Whew!!

So, what does all of this have to do with the weight of leadership? As I sat among our staff last week, I watched them interact. I saw their joy and excitement to be on the team. I looked at their faces and wondered about their families, their stories, their struggles. I longed to know them better, something that is hard to do with a language deficit. I got excited about all that I would learn and see in a year from now, when I begin to settle into a new role (again). My heart hurt for them, as they have individually and collectively been through some tough times lately. I saw their hearts of service. Their dedication to something bigger than self. I long to serve with them. To serve them, as their leader.

Quickly all of my deficiencies surfaced. How was I going to add anything useful to this amazing team? How would I contribute? Would I be able to handle all of the normal dynamics that come along with a team of 50+ people? Am I ready for something like this? What if I fail? What if I don’t bring the positive change that I hope to bring? What if I don’t listen enough or care enough? What happens when I struggle to transfer my American ideas and attitudes into a new context? Will I be able to see with new perspective? Will they trust me? All of these questions swirled in my head as I sat and shared meals with them.

The weight became real.

Leadership is a heavy, difficult task. Leaders rarely keep the peace and never keep everyone happy. Leaders make hard things happen and charge ahead with a clear vision, even when it doesn’t seem possible. Leaders, at least those who lead like Jesus, must learn to serve first. Leaders must listen more than they talk. They must understand the importance of trust and integrity. Leaders are courageous and must develop the skill of candor - that is, caring deeply while providing needed criticism and course correction for the betterment of the person and the team. Leaders who lead like Jesus see themselves as shepherds of His flock.

Thankfully, He is the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23). He is the Perfect Example (1 Pet 2:21). He’s in control (Philippians 4:6-7). He will provide all that I need to be what He has called me to be (Ephesians 3:20).

He provides relief for the weight that I feel. His burden is light (Matt 11:28-30). He’s got this.