“Leading with courage is hard. But I’m going to do it with the Lord beside me, behind me, and in front of me.”
This past Saturday was the annual CULEAD conference, which focused on inspiring, equipping, and empowering each of the students present to be a good leader. The conference consisted of two main sessions led by Col. Todd Fogle, and then additional breakout sessions that were led by various staff, faculty, and students.
You may wonder why Cedarville would take an entire Saturday specifically devoted to equipping students to be leaders. Why is this so important? Well, following is easy. Anyone can follow the crowd. In fact, it takes no skill whatsoever to simply go along with what everyone else is doing. But being a leader? That takes courage. As Col. Fogle said, “Courage is important in leaders because moments of courage are moments of truth. We come face-to-face with who we are and what we’re made of.”
There were several wonderful points that Col. Fogle made, but the one that stood out to me the most was when he said a good leader knows when to say “I don’t know.” This struck pretty close to home for me. I grew up in a family of people who kind of prided themselves on always knowing something. (We were homeschooled and, honestly, pretty smart.) But I never, never, never wanted to say “I don’t know.” I always like to be the one who has the most information, and in a way, this gives me the upper hand. And even if I didn’t know something, I would pretend that I did. The whole “fake it till you make it” mentality is very real to me. (As I’m writing this, I see how kind of ridiculous this seems).
Col. Fogle said that good leaders don’t see information as power to hoard as their own; they share it with their entire team. I think that up until that point, I actually had seen information as power. Knowledge isn’t bad, but using that knowledge to hold it over others is simply pride.
But a good leader isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know”? Doesn’t that make the leader seem weak? Leaders are supposed to know everything, right? I think there are two things to learn from this. One from the perspective of the leader, and one from the perspective of the follower. First, a leader who is willing to admit he or she doesn’t know something is honest. Embracing the truth takes courage, but being honest shows your team that they can trust you. The next thing we can learn when we are under someone else’s leadership is that we shouldn’t expect our leaders to know everything; they’re just as human as we are. Being a gracious leader is important, but so is being a gracious follower.
Leadership is a willingness to act when nobody else will. This is the start of a journey of how you can use what God has given you. And God will use us to change the world.