Do It Anyway: Why greatness in leadership often emerges from heartache, pain and risk

do_it_anyway_copy-620x420One of my youngest teammates–at AidChild in Uganda–is currently in the midst of a great trial; not related to physical unhealth or economic need, but in the form of an attack on his integrity fueled by jealousy and fear.

Welcome to leadership.

In my research into the ingredients of effective and world-changing leadership, those persons at the helm often emerge from backgrounds of terrific heartache and pain.  I believe that empathy and sympathy are key ingredients of leadership-that-matters, and it is difficult to understand Other when one hasn’t experienced life’s challenges as Self.

If you haven’t had a bad day lately, or you haven’t grieved, worried or cried, ask yourself if you’re occupying the days of your human experience as you should.

Another colleague was limping around the office the other day because of a new and strenuous workout.  (I know what that’s like!)  But the fact is, she wouldn’t have the physical wellness and strength she has without the stress on the body that results from her belief in “no pain, no gain.”  The same is exponentially greater in the worlds of spirituality and leadership.  The building of mental and spiritual muscle immediately results in fatigue, and ultimately results in greatness.

Consider the following:

  • Dr. Martin Luther King.  Persecuted and attacked for years, assassinated at age 39—my age.
  • Nelson Mandela.  Wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years, a troubled and failed marriage, the loss of children to death, current unhealth.
  • Oprah Winfrey.  Victim of sexual molestation, American poverty, and mistreatment due to racism and those who judge according to body weight.
  • Jesus Christ.  Persecuted, tortured and crucified.
  • Gandhi.  Wrongfully imprisoned and silenced.  Also assassinated.
  • Helen Keller.  Unable to see, hear or speak, and yet one of the world’s greatest thinkers and activists.

This human experience is froth with opportunities to effect change—or to dwell on heartache and pain.  While the latter must not be ignored, neither must it be the focus of this short experience.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  But do it anyway.  Believe that you were specifically chosen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

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