Being the youngest, I always liked to follow my big sister around, having no problems letting her take charge.
I never failed to have someone else lead me. It didn’t matter whether it was in school for projects, in groups of friends, in church or at home. I was perfectly comfortable with letting others tell me what to do.
Not only that, I also actively avoided any leadership roles, refusing to step up when teachers or adults asked someone to. I didn’t enjoy telling people what to do. Speaking in front of groups of people was a huge hurdle I struggled to overcome.
This applied to both real life and my WhatsApp chat groups – I would take a long time to send a simple text. If I couldn’t do it in a digital space, I was even quieter in real life.
Many people commented on how forgetful and blur I was, my family and friends included. I came to believe that I wasn’t capable of leading, afraid to relay the wrong information to those around me.
That’s why I preferred to follow other people’s instructions. “They’re more confident and more observant,” I told myself, “so they’ll do the job better than I ever can.”
Things changed in secondary school.
My best friend persuaded me to be a chemistry representative with her, thinking it would be fun to step up for once. It didn’t involve public speaking or any need to relay information – my teacher would do that for us. So I agreed.
Then in secondary 4, I was given another role in my co-curricular activity (CCA), the Girls’ Brigade (GB). The teachers-in-charge appointed me as a squad leader.
But I assumed it was because I was the only senior left in my squad who wasn’t part of the executive committee.
A chemistry rep had a few responsibilities: Reminding my classmates to hand in their homework to me, submitting it to our teacher and handing out the marked homework, to name a few.
Being a squad leader had a few more: I collected forms, took attendance and helped the new members settle in.
As I reflect on it now, those small roles in secondary school helped me learn what it was like to feel responsible for a group of people.
Entering polytechnic helped to further my leadership training.
There I joined the SP Navigators for my CCA. They had group discussions during the official CCA meetings, but they also focused on one-on-one sessions.
God blessed me with a fantastic leader, Alice*, a woman who exemplified what it meant to pick up her cross and follow Jesus daily.
I attended very few sessions at the start; I had a busy schedule and my mother didn’t let me stay late in school. Alice didn’t force me to join. Instead, she prayed for me that I would keep prioritising God.
I only began to attend the sessions more regularly towards the end of my first year.
Outside of the official sessions, I met up with Alice once a week. She shared what she had learned from her reading of the Bible, motivated me to share as well, then we would pray for each other.
In time, we started on a series of books called “Studies in Christian Living”.
I always looked forward to those wonderful times of Bible discussion – Alice would also check in on how I was doing to see if there were any areas of my personal walk she could help me grow in.
She was someone I could call a leader and a close friend.
At the onset of COVID-19, CCA sessions moved to video calls at the start of the circuit breaker. Every Monday to Friday morning at 8am, my friends would gather online to share about their quiet time.
Alice noticed that I was there consistently, three out of five days, which was why she suggested that I lead the session every Friday morning.
It wasn’t difficult after observing how the other leaders had done it, and it was a small test of my confidence to pray in a huge group.
Sometimes, I was asked to lead the official CCA by sharing what God had taught me throughout the week. It was only a short sharing, but that was another test of my confidence to speak in front of others.
“Don’t worry, I’m in control. So take it one step at a time.”
The real challenge came when I was asked to mentor two new year one girls who had just joined SP Navigators.
I’d never led anyone before. For me to contact them, get to know them and ask to meet for personal time was a step into unknown territory.
I considered myself a follower who didn’t see any leadership potential in myself. And being a disciple of Jesus was enough of a daily challenge. Now I had to help lead others in doing that? The very thought made me nervous.
God, however, reassured me that I was ready to take on this position. I couldn’t stay among the flock forever… I saw that I could help shepherd too.
“Don’t worry, I’m in control,” He told me, “so take it one step at a time.”
So I started out the same way as Alice did with me.
The only difference was that we had virtual, 30-minute meetings. God blessed all those times of fellowship – there were no awkward moments at all, especially for a friendship formed online.
Though we didn’t get the chance to see one another in person until a few months later, we had developed a stable friendship by then.
As such, my leader decided to start on the “Studies in Christian Living” material with one of the freshies who was coming frequently. This time, however, I would be the one to take the freshie through it.
Alice would be there for support, but I would lead the discussion from beginning to end.
I didn’t do it without guidance, thankfully. Alice called me beforehand to go through the questions I had prepared. We prayed, too, that the freshie would have an open, teachable heart, and for God to bring her a new revelation of His word.
I was still nervous on the day itself, but it wasn’t because I needed to prove myself to be a good leader.
I wanted to help her grow the same way all my leaders helped me. That was one of my God-given goals for my life: to help bring others closer to Christ.
God had heard and answered our prayer. The freshie was so willing to share her thoughts in the study even without any prompting. Not only that, she had an open mind to learn, which was more than Alice and I could ask for.
The session felt more like a comfortable chat than a formal discussion. We were able to share a few personal stories related to the study, as we learned more about each other.
I’m so amazed: All it took was one simple session for God put a new desire in my heart to keep discipling others through one-on-one time!
Today, I’m not as afraid of leading others as much as I was in the past.
The doubts of not being skilled enough to lead didn’t bother me at all during the session because of the training God made me go through as a disciple.
If you think about it, leadership isn’t a calling for just a few people.
In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded us to lead others in the way that they should go. So don’t let being quiet or your feelings of inadequacy prevent you from stepping into a leadership role. He is the one who qualifies us.
And He calls us to go and make disciples of all nations. We can’t do that if we keep refusing the call He has to lead others.
THINK + TALK
- Leadership. What was the first thing that came to mind when you read that word?
- Who is in your sphere of influence? Who could you lead?
- How might God want to impact your world through your leadership?