What Do You Mean . . . “Leader?”

Photo Credit: Steve Johnson via flickr

Photo Credit: Steve Johnson via flickr

Susie Allen, who co-leads the Boston Soul of Leadership program with Margaret Benefiel, is guest blog author this month.

A few days ago, a friend was speaking with me about a deep passion she has for a topic she wants to bring into focus for discussion and reflection at her church. As she was talking, I found myself moved by the power of her own experience around the topic, and drawn into her ideas about how to create programming to bring this topic to light.

I asked her about her plans to generate such a program, given her deep passion and clear ideas. She responded to my question by saying, “Oh, I can’t do this. I’m not a leader.” I detected some sadness as she said this, acknowledging that despite her passion and desire, she does not feel equipped to bring such a program into being.

So I asked her, “What do you mean by ‘leader’?” She began, and I joined her, to outline a concept of leader. In front of people, directive, vocal, powerful, confident, knowledgeable, command and control. We sat for a moment to be present to this picture of leader.

We began to talk about her ideas: create a display of printed resources on the topic; identify books to study in small groups; lead a book discussion; organize a calendar to schedule small group book discussions; create publicity for the church and community; distribute person-to-person invitations; and gather testimonials. Then we wondered together – which, of all of these ideas, might she set into action? Which energized her? Which tapped into the gifts and skills she knows she has?

All of a sudden, “leader” took on a different character and quality. In the context of enacting her vision, “leader” might be described in these ways: creator, writer, connector, organizer, gatherer, small group facilitator, storyteller. She began to see herself as someone who has leadership qualities that could be engaged to bring her vision to life.

Organizations and workplaces are as varied as the people who are a part of them. The leadership styles and characteristics needed in the cockpit of an airplane are vastly different from the qualities needed to lead a street ministry, or direct an orchestra, or run a household.

What is your sphere of influence? What are the particular gifts and skills you know you have? Where do you come alive in your work? What is the best workplace environment for your personality?

Another friend recently asked me when Executive Soul might be offering programs for “followers.” We smiled together, and then I wondered with her – is she leading in ways she hasn’t yet become aware of? I’ll bet she is. And if so, how does she want to energize and engage the leader within?

6 Responses to “What Do You Mean . . . “Leader?””


  1. 1 Pat Sykora January 26, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Oh how I like this, Susie…especially the wise way you led her into her own truth.

  2. 3 kmkoplik January 26, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    This is such an interesting way to look at leadership. Very encouraging. Thank you!

  3. 5 Nicolette Wellington January 26, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you Susie, for this article. It speaks to me in several ways. I like the question about a group for followers and the idea of reframing the definition of what it might mean to be a leader in different contexts….


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