By Oluwatofunmi Odulate
“I am not a leader.”
If I had a penny for every time that I have said that in my life, I would be very wealthy. This is because I had this distorted idea of what leadership meant. Some of the myths of leadership I had conformed to were, “A leader is to be in and be fit for the limelight. A leader is meant to be perfect and without any form of blemish. A leader does not have a life. A leader settles conflicts and listens to the problems of others. A leader is the best in the group. A leader is the most important person in a group. A leader never fails and is always right.” The list goes on. These myths clouded my judgement and was the reason behind my rejection of any opportunity to “lead,” because after all, I was not a leader.
“I am not a leader.”
I first uttered those words at the age of 13, after I was asked to lead the children church for a new church plant. However, as simple as my responsibilities may have been for a person of that age, they seemed overwhelming to me, and stirred up many inner doubts about of how unprepared I was and how inadequate I felt about this task. How could someone consider me at that time, to think that this 13-year old girl was mature enough to lead? Isn’t leadership for the elderly? As I took on this task, I exceled at it. This opened more opportunities to lead in different capacities and under different circumstances. As time went on, this newly found path in my life spurred another question in my mind.
“Am I a leader?”
I remember when I first heard about the CLLI, I had a mental conversation with myself, and my parents, on why I should enroll. “I am not a leader. I am not planning on becoming one. It is too much responsibility. I am not even a Latina” I would tell them, in a bid to convince them and myself that I was towing the wrong path. After conferring with staff and faculty of the Institute and encouraged by alumni to enroll, I applied. Apparently, every other person saw the leader in me that I was yet acknowledge. They, unlike me, knew the true definition of a leader—one that does not focus onthe position but brings the right attributes to that position.
I have learned that leadership does not always come with a title. It comes when a person assumes the role and responsibilities and the ability to influence others towards a common goal. After my first year of attending CCLI, reading books on leadership, and hearing leadership journeys of those on the faculty, I could see myself in their stories of how they began their leadership journeys.. I too had doubted myself many times; I too had had others doubt me; I too was afraid of failing if I tried; I too feared criticisms if I was not doing a perfect job. These women who I saw as being accomplished in their various disciplines in life, had experienced similar fears that I was going through at that moment. The question once again rang in my head.
“Am I a leader?”
Being a leader is to be a learner and a follower. Jesus Christ, who I consider to be the greatest teacher of all, admonishes us in John 13:13-17 (NIV) to be like him. We are to follow his example and learn from Him the way He learned from the Father. Leaders should be consistent learners. Paul further adds in his letter to the Hebrews to, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcomes of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Hebrew13:7 (NIV). He says that to be a leader, we need to learn from a leader. We need to be teachable. I began to look outside of myself in that in order for me to become the leader that God has called me to be, I need to first accept that I am a leader and submit myself to the instruction of other leaders that have been strategically placed in my life. In addition, a leader is a servant. We are not ready for leadership if we are not ready to humble ourselves in service to others. Jesus says as much in Matthew 20:26. “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
Am I a leader?
Many of us may have at one point in time asked ourselves this question. We look at our capabilities with doubt and disbelief. In doing so, we fail to acknowledge the One that has given us this ability to begin with. We also fail to validate the discernment of those around us who see us fit to be and call us leaders.
I know now that I have metamorphosed over the years from that timid 13-year old girl to a young woman who has given her life to the service of others, and happily so. I have grown into a young woman who believes that she is able to effect positive change in situations and be a catalyst of growth in those she is entrusted to guide and influence. I am certainly not there yet as I have so many who have gone before me, whose steps I need to imitate to be a better leader. I have put away timidity and self-doubt and taken head-on the tasks that have been set before me and tried as much as possible to also be worthy to be a model for those coming after me. With this, I can boldly and confidently say: “I am a leader.”
I want to challenge us to look inwardly and listen to what has been said about us, acknowledge those intricate attributes of leadership that we possess, embrace them and begin to utilize them, because after all, we are indeed leaders.
Oluwatofunmi Odulate is a recent graduate of Baptist University of the Americas. She is also a 2019 graduate of CLLI. “To,” as she is fondly called by most is current working with refugees at BCFS and serves in the music, women’s, children, and young adult ministry in her local church, Mercy Church of San Antonio. To is passionate about people and their mental health.