Sunday, August 22, 2010

Leadership 101

by Angie Weszely

I’m almost embarrassed to share a key leadership lesson I’ve been learning recently. Embarrassed because it feels like something I should have learned well before my forties. But I didn’t. And just in case there is anyone else out there like me, and because this lesson has been so life-changing, I want to lay it out there.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” (John 15:4, The Message)

When I came into my current leadership position four years ago, I felt unprepared. No, actually clueless, about what I would need to do to lead an organization. Determined to learn the ropes before people found me out, I read every book, attended every conference, and asked advice from every leader I could find. I took frantic notes, had planning days to figure out how to implement new ideas, and did put a lot of great structure in place. But then something happened. My team asked me not to go to any more leadership conferences, because they were overwhelmed trying to implement all my new ideas!

After about two years of this, I was exhausted. One day, as I was trying to get even more leadership advice from a trusted friend, she began to ask me questions about my relationship with God. How were my times with him? (Um…listening to worship music during my commute?) What kind of space or margin was I making for spiritual refreshment? (Margin? With a full-time job and two kids?) I started squirming a bit, because I knew where she was headed.

So I started replacing my leadership books with Dallas Willard books. And my leadership conferences with spiritual formation retreats. And asking advice from other leaders with asking God to speak to me. Not because any the pursuit of leadership brilliance was wrong or unimportant, but because I had been neglecting the more essential leadership training – being a branch and drawing nourishment from the Vine.

And God met me. He didn’t scold me, he refreshed me and filled me up and spoke to me. And I was amazed to find that leading was much more enjoyable when I was drawing life from the Vine. Not only more enjoyable, but more wise. As I asked for wisdom he guided me into even better decisions. Once, at a brainstorming meeting for new wording for our messaging, we got stuck and ended with no resolution on one particular category. I left the meeting frustrated, shut the door to my office and said, “God, how do we say this?” Immediately a word popped into my mind and that word is still a key part of our messaging today. What we couldn’t solve in a two-hour meeting, God solved in two minutes!

I’m still on this journey, still learning these lessons two years later. I want to keep growing in my dependence on God; to pray instead of trying to control outcomes: to make space for God when things at work are the most hectic; to spend more time relishing the life that comes from sitting at the feet of the ultimate Leader.

How about you? I would love to hear ways you make space for God as a leader.

Angie Weszely is President of Caris Pregnancy Counseling and Resources, a Christian organization providing hope and support to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Angie is passionate about offering holistic and innovative solutions to the divisive issue of abortion, and about mobilizing Christians to be a compassionate voice for both women and children.


  1. Loved this post! Thank for reiterating what I feel God is speaking to me so much about lately- drawing from the Vine, living and abiding in His love daily. It can be a battle sometimes to carve out this time, BUT it is always always always worth it! Thanks for sharing this :)

  2. Angie: This is great. Thank you for the re-re-reminder!

  3. You expressed your embarrassment or regret that you didn't know this sooner. I fear this happens too often in Christian organizations. When I got promoted into major leadership responsibilities at 26 just as you said I was learning a mile a minute, getting "trained" by reading and talking to people. Over the near decade that I served, I absolutely dried up spiritually. A good mentor could have/should have spoken up and directed me toward dependence on God. Rather I was encouraged to take on more, and the vicious cycle continued. Sadly I left the organization totally wiped out, burned out, and wanting out! (Hating both myself and the org, and doubting my faith.)

    So keep talking about this, most importantly to younger leaders who need your experience and wisdom. You just may change their story...

    Thank you for your honesty.

  4. Well said Angie! A great reminder indeed. I, too, have squirmed a bit in similar ways. Most recently when a Spiritual Director asked me what I was doing for my soul lately. To which I shrugged and shifted my eyes to the floor. Couldn't quite tell her. Your words are a GREAT reminder. Thanks sista!

  5. Thanks for all your comments. I hope all of us as leaders start talking more about caring for our souls and being refreshed in Jesus - to encourage others (and ourselves!) to make the time.

  6. Your post was timely as I've been hearing a lot from God about taking time to REST in him, to be still, to stop the crazy busy cycle of life and really rest in him. Thanks for the great reminder to put God first- and the rest follows.......with that I'm going to go have some alone time with God. Thanks!