The Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast: Episode 2
Welcome to the Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast from rhondapeterson.com. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader Coach. Our theme today is Bold & Courageous Leadership defined. Andee and I, today, are inviting you to listen in on a conversation we recently had on leadership.
Andee: Rhonda, during your lifetime, how has your understanding of leadership evolved?
Rhonda: That’s an interesting question Andee and it has definitely taken many twists and turns as I have developed my understanding of leadership. As a young person, my definition of leadership was formed through 4-H and watching leadership in the church. And in both of those situations, there were definitely adults and people who were in positions of authority who held major leadership positions. Especially in 4-H, and this is one of the reasons why I really value that organization, I had the opportunity to grow in my leadership understanding and experience by being a leader in the club in a gradual way. They didn’t throw you into being the president of the club as the first role you had. You had a role doing a smaller level of leadership when you started and you grew in your leadership ability through the experiences within the club. That was overseen by adults who were modeling good leadership for you. So, that was really a positive experience of leadership.
As I moved into adulthood, my experiences around leadership were mostly in the corporate world and those were experiences that were pretty command control where there were people at the top who had all the authority and you did what they said. As I’ve gotten older and been exposed to a lot more different kinds of leadership, I’ve learned that leadership is a much broader definition than really the management style leadership model that I saw.
Some of the examples of definitions of leadership, over time, have been Peter Drucker, who is a very famous management guru. And his definition of leadership is, “the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” You’ve got to love the really obvious nature of that.
Andee: Yes. Yes.
Rhonda: And there’s Warren Bennis who is a famous leadership expert, and he says, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” And if you’re thinking about somebody who is a visionary leader, I would agree with you. That is one component of leadership that is really important.
There’s also Ron Heifetz, he’s from Harvard University and he says, “The real heroism of leadership involves having the courage to face reality and helping the people around you to face reality.” Well, that’s another component of leadership that he has a very valuable point there.
Then there’s John Maxwell and I love the simplicity of his definition of leadership because he captures leadership that is in a very different way than a lot of times, I think we think of. His definition is, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.” And when we think about how John Maxwell defines leadership as influence, that means there’s a lot more people who are leaders than we might ordinarily think of. That takes that whole command control model and throws it right out the window because there are a lot of people in any organization who have influence, whether they recognize it or not. And if we recognize the people who have influence in the organization, we find out that there are a lot more leaders out there and when we recognize the implication of what we might be able to do with that influence, wow, we could change the world.
Andee: Yes, we can. You know that reminds me of a leader that, a behind the scenes leader from back in my big church days. She was actually, she ran the kitchen.
Andee: You know in the big church we did a lot of cooking food and served a lot of people.
Rhonda: Powerful person.
Andee: She was a very powerful person but nobody thought of her in that typical leadership paradigm. I mean they just didn’t, and yet she had tremendous influence on her team, the men and women, mostly women, who worked in the kitchen with her.
Andee: And she, if there was anything that we needed to communicate to that group of people, we did it through Miss Lila because she had their ear, she had their trust and so she was able to influence them but she was not your typical leader at all.
Rhonda: You just used two interesting words for what made her a leader. The people trusted her and they would listen to her. Wow, those are really, that’s really an insightful statement. I love that. Thank you for sharing that because if people don’t trust you they aren’t going to follow you. And Peter Drucker’s definition of a leader as someone who has followers, if they don’t trust you, they are not following you.
Andee: I really kind of like the combination of Drucker and Maxwell, to be honest with you.
Rhonda: I agree. That’s true.
Andee: But this conversation kind of brings us to, perhaps, a fresh definition. Do you have a fresh definition of leadership, that you call Bold & Courageous leadership?
Rhonda: I do and that’s because as my understanding of leadership has unfolded and as God has really spoken into my life around leadership because I needed to step out and be the leader that He was calling me to be, I’ve learned some new things about being a leader and that is, that being a leader means you have to be courageous and being courageous does not mean I am doing it on my own. We are called to be courageous. We are not called to be fearless. That’s a very different animal, between the words courageous and fearless that’s a very different understanding.
Andee: That’s interesting.
Rhonda: So, when God speaks to someone, when I was studying scripture, what I recognized was when God speaks to someone, one of the first things He usually says is something to the effect of, don’t be afraid. Which is understandable, because, you know, if God’s speaking to you, you’re probably going to be a little intimidated. It’s just kind of how it works. I’m thinking about when the angel came to Mary, “Don’t be afraid.” It’s just every time “Do not be afraid.”
Andee: The shepherds in the field.
Rhonda: Yes, the shepherds, yes, “don’t be afraid.” And in the story of Joshua, God called him and he promised to be with him. Well God promises that same gift to us, of His presence. You talked about that the leader had the trust of the people that followed. We have to choose trust that God promised to be with us and we don’t have to be afraid. So I don’t have to be fearless on my own. I don’t have to step out because I’m tough and confident, instead God calls me to trust Him and step into what He calls me to do. That’s what courageous is.
Courageous means that you feel the fear. You acknowledge the fear and you trust God as you step out anyway. He’s the one who’s going to provide the strength and confidence. We don’t have to do that ourselves. And when we understand that meaning of courageous then we can more confidently step out in leadership. We can be bold because our leadership doesn’t have to come from our own bravery and our own bravado. Courage and bravado are very different things.
Andee: I would agree with that, yes.
Rhonda: If we stay in the space where God is calling us out to lead we can trust him that no matter what we need to face he is going to be there with us.
Andee: So, I can see that this is something that is going make us distinctive, this is something that is going to make a Bold & Courageous leader different from other leadership perspectives. Knowing that the first order of business, if you will, is to choose to trust God and to cultivate that. It needs to grow. It needs to deepen and become just a true part of who we really are.
Rhonda: That is probably at the core of the whole thing. What makes a Bold & Courageous leader different is that God is at the center of that. And as someone who has been a leader in the past, in different areas of my life, whether that be in the corporate space, whether that be in the church, whether that be in a volunteer organization in the community, I’ve been in leadership roles in a lot of different places. But putting God at the center of it and being very intentional about that being the center of what I’m doing is a very different way of looking at what my leadership looks like and how I lead.
Its God-centered, not me-centered. It’s serving centered, not me-centered also. That goes into all sorts of other things that we can discuss on another day but if we’re leading, because we will get off on a tangent that goes on for God knows how long. If we’re leading out of a God-centered space, we are using out gifts in ways that benefit others and ourselves. But if we’re leading out of a space where we’re leading out of self, the bottom line is we’re going to be leading out of something like ‘what’s in it for me.’
Andee: That’s right.
Rhonda: The bottom line is it’s not like Bold & Courageous leadership does not have benefits for the leader, it does. Because, when you bless others, blessings flow back to you also. But it’s that when God is at the center of our leadership we see things differently and we lead differently.
Rhonda: We lead out of a place where the focus is what’ best for everyone.
Andee: What I’m hearing, then is a Bold & Courageous leader is one who knows his or own identity and worth in the eyes of God, trusts that and by so doing is freed to respond to God’s call, to God’s guidance in their life and to be a leader who acts on, actually on behalf of God.
Rhonda: As somebody who has been in the corporate space, knowing that you are someone who can use your Godly leadership abilities even in your corporate role, without even necessarily using the name of Jesus, or referring to God in the process can be very freeing, in the sense that what you’re doing is allowing who God created you to be, to well-up and become part of all of your life. Which is what we would call the intersection of the sacred and the secular.
Rhonda: Personally, I don’t look at things as being sacred as in ‘of God’, or being secular as being of- the-world, there is a big continuum. There is a man called Brother Andrew who talked about that and he called that practicing the presence. In anything that he did, he looked at that as being worship. No matter how mundane the task was that he did, he did it for the glory of God. He did everything that he did to honor God. And if we look at our leadership, our tasks, our roles, no matter what they are in the world from that perspective then we are living as a Bold & Courageous leader, living out our faith in all that we do.
Andee: How would you describe a Bold & Courageous leader? What does a Bold & Courageous leader look like?
Rhonda: That’s a great question. I think there are five things that we can look for in a Bold & Courageous leader. First of all, a Bold & Courageous leader trusts God. They live in the space of ‘do not be afraid.’ They know what it looks like to say ‘I will go with you.’ They understand what that means. Now, that didn’t come from their own power to understand that. They’ve walked with God, gone through a process of becoming more confident in that relationship. In Romans 12:2, this is referred to as being transformed by the renewing of your mind. And that process helps them to trust God on a much deeper level. In Ephesians 2:10 this is referred to as being created anew in Christ Jesus.
Both of those expressions, being transformed by the renewing of your mind, being created anew, this is renewal in a new level of trusting God. This person is also self-aware, they know their strengths, they know their behavior style. They know that they are somebody who is bold and out-front or they tend to be somebody who is gentle and walks beside people in a more, quiet way. They understand who they are and what they bring to the table as a leader. Because different people lead in different ways and that does not mean that one kind of leadership is better than another, it just means that it is different. But they also recognize that sometimes their strengths can be overused and that sometimes they become a weakness and they monitor themselves for that so that they do not run roughshod over others by using their strengths so that other people feel that there’s a tank that’s been run over them.
Rhonda: And that’s, so that kind of brings me to the second part of self-awareness which is that they understand their context and the intersection of their leadership in that context. They know that where they are right now, how their leadership interacts with that and how they need to leverage who they are as a leader in the context that they are in. There’ s a big difference in leading in a context, and you know this probably more than many people. You lead in a big church. Now you’re leading in a small church. That’s a really different animal.
Andee: Very different animal. Yes.
Rhonda: There are people who have lead in large corporations that are now leading in smaller corporations, or vice versa. And how you lead in those organizations looks different. You have to understand the context that you’re in to be a Bold & Courageous leader in that space. Or I can give you a different example of that. As you can tell I could go on and on about this. I have watched people who are very successful corporate leaders try to lead a volunteer organization and fail miserably. This does not mean that corporate leaders should not be involved in the nonprofit world. That is not what I’m saying at all. But what I’m saying is, when you try to lead in a nonprofit that is being staffed by volunteers…
Andee: That’s a different context.
Rhonda: … it sure is, in the same way that you lead the people when you’re signing their paycheck or when you have authority over whether they keep their job or not, it’s a very different animal.
Rhonda: And leadership looks incredibly different under those circumstances.
Andee: Yes, it does.
Rhonda: So, if you are corporate leader and you desire to use your skills in a nonprofit setting, I suggest that you get some coaching from someone; coaching, mentoring, someone who can help you understand how to translate what you know so well how to do on the corporate level, into a nonprofit, volunteer setting.
Andee: Yes, that’s critical.
Rhonda: I would agree with that. So far the characteristics that we’ve talked about is that they trust God and that they’re self-aware. The third characteristic is that they know who they follow and who follows them. That’s something that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of until I was reading a book about wounded leaders and it pointed out that many of today’s leaders have a problem with followership.
Andee: Well sure. If they’re wounded, they’ve been wounded by someone, perhaps somebody who was in leadership, somebody that they were following. So they’re not sure that they want to follow anyone anymore and open themselves up to being wounded again.
Rhonda: So, the question then becomes how do you manage that because all of us need to follow somebody. Which brings me to number four. A Bold & Courageous leader is always guided by their why. Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why talks about what is the reason behind doing what you’re doing and if we know that somebody is self-aware, they are going to have on at least some level, the reason behind their why. What is the purpose, the underlying value that propels them at their core to do whatever it is that they are called to do? There is something that fires each one of us and that has to do with how He created us and what are the things that are most important to us. What are our values? What are the concerns and issues and the passions that we are here to work on, for lack of a better way?
Rhonda: So, once we are self-aware and know who we are going to follow and who is going to follow us and the why, that can shape us a lot as a Bold & Courageous leader because Bold & Courageous leaders exist in all kinds of areas. They exist in education. They exist in the corporate world. They exist in the church world. They exist in nonprofits. They exist in government. And actually, I believe God has called many of us, all of us to be Bold & Courageous leaders. The question is whether we are hearing what He is calling us to and whether or not we are going to step-up and trust Him to step out. So, there’s one more characteristic and that is they are always learning. They are always seeking to be more aware of the connections, the opportunities, a deeper level of self-awareness and a deeper level of knowing who God is in their life.
Andee: Amen. I think being a life-long learner is absolutely one of the most critical marks of leadership. Because once you get to the place where you think ‘I don’t need to learn anymore, I already know everything that I need to know’ you’ve just closed yourself off and I think you also begin to lose your influence over others. You are just stuck in this rut. Everything is growing because if you’re not growing and not changing, then basically you’re just dead in the water, or literally dead. People will look at you and say, this person is stuck. This person thinks they know everything. They’re not looking at how the world around them is continuing to evolve and change. So it’s just critical that a leader adapts to that attitude of there’s always something more that I can learn.
Rhonda: That’s so true and especially today when the change is coming at us at quantum speed.
Rhonda: First of all, there’s no way that we can keep up with everything, which is one of the reasons that we need to be following other people because they are focused on different parts of the change process.
Andee: Do you think it also speaks to why we also have to know our why.
Andee: What are we going to invest the most of our time and energy in learning.
Rhonda: Absolutely that has so much to do with it. Absolutely.
Andee: So, what else do you need to know to become a Bold & Courageous leader.
Rhonda: I think we need to become aware of what is involved in being a Bold & Courageous leader. We have to deal with the reality, of the fact, that leadership involves risks because if you’re not taking risks as a leader, then you’re not really leading. You’re just managing the process that is in place today. If we’re moving toward a vision, that means that there’s growth involved, and don’t tell anybody but growth involves change.
Rhonda: I know, the big C word. Oh dear. The big C. And so a lot of people act negatively to change and in some parts of my life, I react negatively to change too. Even though I’m somebody who in some ways embraces change. I’m one of those crazy people from that standpoint. But if you are a leader and you are moving toward a vision, that means that there is going to be change involved. Now, hopefully, that change is evolutionary change and I don’t mean that to mean evolutionism versus creationism, that’s not what I mean. I mean change that happens in a fashion that can be dealt with by the organization as opposed to disruptive change.
Rhonda: But regardless, leadership involves risk. And there’s going to be pain and some of that pain is going to be the pain that the leader experiences. And part of that is because leadership involves conflict. So, if you’re dealing with conflict that opens you to pain. Sometimes leaders get frustrated and stuck because this pain is something they haven’t anticipated that’s related to the conflict that leadership involves. And if you, if you’re not anticipating that there’s going to be conflict and you see conflict as a negative thing, it’s going to cause you all kinds of pain. If; however, you see that conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow for not only you but for those people who you are leading, who might be pushing back, then you can approach it from a much different perspective. So, it’s anticipating, being aware of and acknowledging that there will be pain in the process. That helps.
So the question is what are you going to do with the pain that conflict that leadership brings with it. You can either anticipate it and acknowledge it or you can avoid it. I probably don’t have to spell this out to you too much to you, but I’m going to pause it at anticipating and acknowledging that there is going to be pain in the change, that leadership leads with it is going to be much better for you than trying to avoid it. Because, the reality is, you can’t avoid it. So, if you practice humility and self-forgetfulness, which is an expression that Tim Keller uses, you can deal with the pain of conflict without getting frustrated and stuck. That to me is really being a Bold & Courageous leader because you know it’s part of the process when it comes time for leaving well or when it’s time to keep working through the process because you know what the goal is at the end. You know that why of what you are trying to accomplish and what God has called you to do. However, if you avoid it, that only increases frustration for both those that you are leading and yourself and if you avoid, this picture I have in my head is that, is if you try to avoid that as being an ostrich sticking your head in the sand. And you know that when you stick your head in the sand, what that gives people the opportunity to do. That means your behind is sticking up in the air and you’re a target to be kicked.
Andee: So, that is a picture that will stick with me for a long time to come. Thank you, Rhonda.
Rhonda: Anytime. So, I really want to encourage leaders, whether you feel like you’re stuck and frustrated and you don’t fit where you are right now, or whether you feel like you need to move to the next level that Bold & Courageous leadership, trusting God; knowing who you are, becoming more self-aware; knowing who you follow and who follows you; and knowing and being guided by your why; continuing to learn, that can put you in the place of making a difference in the world for the Kingdom of God that can be so powerful and so rewarding.
Andee: Amen. Amen. And, again I would say the world desperately needs Bold & Courageous leaders.
Rhonda: I would completely agree with you on that and I hope that anyone who has resonated with what this podcast is saying would continue to listen to the podcasts that we’re going to be doing in the future and that they would share this with other people so that we can continue to get the message out about Bold & Courageous leadership.
To find out more about today’s topic, get downloads of our previous podcasts or to learn more about how you too can become a Bold & Courageous leader, visit rhondapeterson.com. Our ever-growing community is waiting for you. If you liked today’s show, there are three things you can do. You can subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher. You can give us a rating or a review on iTunes. The subscriptions and ratings help others to find us more easily. And you can help us get the word out by sharing the podcast with your friends. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader Coach. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you for the next Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast.