By Commissioner Jolene K. Hodder

While in Kenya, my husband and I hired a guide to take us to a place called Crater Lake. There we walked in the company of giraffes, monkeys, herds of gazelles, antelopes, and dik-diks. We were so busy enjoying ourselves that we soon found ourselves in the deep bush. I was not really concerned about this until our guide casually announced, “We are lost!” He had simply not kept track of where we were.

It was at that point that my mind began to race. We didn’t have any emergency supplies, and I was wearing scented lotion, which is not a good thing around wild animals. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all I could do was pray for direction and safety. Luckily, after several hours of walking, we miraculously came upon a small safari camp, collapsed onto chairs, and gulped down a thirst-quenching cold drink.

I learned an important lesson that day about leadership. Before you can lead others, you must first learn to lead yourself. True leadership cannot be appointed or assigned. It must be developed and earned. John Maxwell says it this way: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

To “know the way,” a leader must envision her destination and know how she is going to get there. No one wants to follow someone who has no clue where she is going or who is often distracted. How can you trust a leader who seems to be lost herself?

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So, as God’s leaders, our direction must always come from Him. We must first learn to follow Him, never allowing ourselves to get side-tracked along the way.

A good leader also “goes the way.” Romans 19-21 states, “If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”

In other words, a leader must practice what she preaches. She prepares herself so she can lead by example, inspiring others through her leadership. She is a woman of integrity you can trust to lead you through challenging times. Our guide at Crater Lake wasn’t prepared with emergency supplies, sunscreen, bug spray, or even water for the long trip. He assumed we knew what to provide ourselves and that we would bring along everything we needed. That is not the thinking of a leader.

On the walk back to our cottage that day, I heard the terrifying rumble of a stampede. My husband yelled, “Buffalo!” And as I looked up, I saw our guide running for his life, having completely forgotten about us. My husband grabbed my hand and we started running too. Thanks to his quick thinking, we avoided being trampled and made it back to our cottage, safe and sound.

Yes, a good leader “shows the way.” She doesn’t just strive to reach her own goals and aspirations. She learns about her followers, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, and then empowers them for the journey. She empowers her followers to be all they can be in Christ so that each can claim victory in Jesus.

Oh, and that day, I learned one final lesson, one that is probably the most important of all. True leadership isn’t about me, but it always starts with me.

Note:  We wish Commissioner Jolene Hodder best wishes as she takes up leadership in her new appointment as the National President of Women’s Ministries.