Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tips for Leading Hard-to-Lead Women

By Nicole Unice

Sometimes, the hardest woman to lead is yourself.

When dealing with the dynamics of leading hard-to-lead women, start with five questions for yourself:

Do you understand invisible dynamics?

Invisible dynamics are the unspoken, sometimes unnoticed relationship rhythms that exist between two parties. Think about a woman you love to lead, and a woman that’s hard to lead. Most likely, they both bring strengths and weaknesses to the table, and ways of interacting that make her easy or difficult to deal with. Now, think about yourself. How would you apply this same matrix to yourself. By owning our own issues, we naturally become better leaders.

Can you get to the heart of the matter?

Discerning the real problem is a key strength in a great leader. So often when we deal with conflicts in leadership, the “problem” being presented to us is just the tip of the iceberg. Successful leaders try to see the whole iceberg. To determine what is making someone difficult to lead, a leader must use self-restraint and patience to root out the real problem. Continue to ask questions until the real problem is uncovered, and then restating the problem until both parties agree can be a helpful first step.

There are also specific ways we can deal with some major personality types:

Leading the dominator:
Dominators tend to be confident and direct and will do best with confident and direct responses. Remember that they tend to roll people over with their personalities and often don’t know that they are being hurtful. These women are usually more interested in getting to the point and less interested in high “relational” time.

Leading the manipulator (or passive-aggressive):
On a great day, this woman is a ‘charmer’; on a bad day, she’s a ‘manipulator’. She is quick on her feet and smooth with her words. Getting to the heart of the matter is always important with a manipulator because they will not lead with the real problem. A manipulator will be more likely to talk behind your back then to your face. It is important to nip this in the bud. For example, you will want to encourage others to send the person directly to you with concerns, and remember to model this behavior yourself.

Leading the silence-ator (or deeply insecure):
This woman is most likely to drift off without you knowing there was ever a problem. Rather than being direct or manipulative, this woman will begin to ignore and/or shrink away from the group. It takes particular care (especially if YOU are a dominator/manipulator) to reach this woman. One-to-one interactions will probably help, as well as assuming the best in her. Establishing trust is crucial for direct conversation, as well as understanding that your sincere efforts may not be enough--and that you can release her back to the Lord, who knows her, loves her and understands the work He is doing in her.

A well-remembered phrase from my graduate training in counseling is “Counselor, Heal Thyself!” The same applies here. When we turn the mirror on ourselves, focusing first on our own issues before applying our knowledge to others, we allow God to shape us into the women he’s creating us to be! And that’s a beautiful way to lead.

Nicole Unice is a Ministry Leader at Hope Church in Richmond, VA. She’s the author of She’s Got Issues and a speaker. You can connect with Nicole at Or check out her resource: “20 Transactional Flaws” list to learn more about you – as a leader!

Monday, February 11, 2013

How are you using your power?

By Kimberly Yim

I am an abolitionist.

Three years ago I would have never said this. I, like my 8 year-old daughter, thought slavery was abolished hundreds of years ago. I knew injustices occurred and that there was still a problem of inequality and racism woven into our nation's fabric, but I had no idea that millions - a well accepted estimate of over 27 million - are currently enslaved in our world today.

Three years ago my son was just starting kindergarten and my daughter was in third grade. I was entrenched in suburban motherhood - grocery shopping, playdates, workouts at the gym, and coffee with friends. A certain undertone of restlessness within my soul finally rose up and refused to be ignored and suddenly no gym class, book club, girls weekend or family game night could remedy the heartbreak my soul was experiencing over the realities of modern-day slavery. It changed everything.    

I devoured every book I found and signed up to receive email updates from nonprofits on the front lines of rescue and rehabilitation. While my anger boiled over the horrors of injustice, hope also began to whisper as history pointed to the action of women hundreds of years ago who changed the cultural norm. With limited education and little influence outside the walls of their homes, these women patiently, fervently and creatively began to push back, calling for the end of slavery.

I also found like-minded friends who could share my heartbreak. I connected with a small group of local women, as well as with my old college friend, Shayne Moore, who would eventually become the coauthor of a book about finding your power to create change, in this case for modern-day slavery. Having trusted friends gave my wobbling feet security as we stepped out together, using our own voices to make a difference.

My influence started slowly - one conversation at a time, one invitation at a time. While I was unsure of the difference each step was making, momentum began to build and I saw firsthand the power of collective action.  

Like the women of the first abolitionist movement, we too have the power to create change, even for issues as looming as modern-day slavery. Here are some actions you can take to influence your world for change:

           Be aware. We need to understand and educate ourselves about the realities of injustice in our world.
            Pray. Everyone who works directly on behalf of the most vulnerable in our world acknowledges that divine intervention is necessary to shed light in the   darkest places of society.
          Speak. We may not all speak publically, but we can share what we know with others in our sphere of influence, including neighbors, employees, kids, teachers, pastors and spouses.
            Act. Action for change comes in many forms but could include raising funds, advocating with political leaders, speaking at your city council meeting, volunteering your time or sharing information at your church or place of business.

As a woman living in the United States today, we have more power and influence than any women who have gone before us. The problem often lies in that we don't always use the power God has so freely given us. Using that power starts with you and me, then in finding others, then taking action one step at a time.

The question is: how are you using the power God has given you?

Kimberly McOwen Yim is the founder of Abolitionist Mamas in San Clemente, California, and the coauthor of Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slaverywith Shayne Moore. She writes and speaks on issues related to human trafficking worldwide.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Recognizing the Signs of Burnout

by Angie Mabry-Nauta

“Look around the room, and get a good glance at your classmates.”

Two short months stood between our group of thirty-seven and the future for which we had been preparing while in seminary. Yes, we had much to accomplish before our official duties began. No matter. We were bright lights and even the most tightly woven bushel would have been challenged to dim us.

We obeyed our pastoral care professor and looked around the room.

“Most of the faces that you see here today will not be in ministry within seven years,” he continued. “The statistics for burnout are well documented, and the causes for it plentiful and unique to each person. Care well for yourselves. It is more likely to happen to you than not.”

Our lights faded.

Ministry is both a rewarding and demanding vocation. It crosses over into every aspect of our lives and encompasses all of who we are, whether we’re a religious professional or a church volunteer. Each person has her own unique gifts.  Regardless of who or where we serve, all who answer God’s call give . . . and give . . . and give. It’s the Christian way, after all. And usually we are all too happy to sacrifice ourselves for others.


Six years into congregational ministry, I had an epiphany. What I believed would happen to my classmates—not me—occurred. I burned out. My top three telltale signs were:

  1. That which used to inspire me drained much of my energy. Preaching, and creating and leading worship services were the lifeblood of my ministry. Each filled me with great joy. . . until producing sermons and worship services came to feel like pulling my own teeth.
  2. I came to loath the parts of ministry that challenged me. Leadership development, administration and mediating conflict were my constant “growth opportunities.” At one time I willingly offered myself to refinement in these areas but burnout kidnapped my pliable spirit.

  1. I lost my compassion and patience with people. The core of my ministry was sharing God’s heart. I mulled my words to accurately and passionately communicate God’s unending love. I had a large capacity to forgive when people hurt me, even love them more through the difficult times. Not so with burnout—grace became hard.

Does any of this strike a chord with you? If you’re feeling “not like yourself” in your service to God and others, take notice. You may be burning out. Take action now and care well for yourself.

Spend quality time with God in silence, prayer and journaling. Engage a spiritual director or work with a counselor. You may even need to negotiate a sabbatical or temporary leave. These steps may just be the best gifts you give not only to yourself, but to your ministry and the people you serve.

Rev. Angie Mabry-Nauta is a writer and an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA).  A member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild, Angie blogs at “Woman, in Progress…” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @Godstuffwriter.