Recently, I was on the phone with the association of YLF organizations from around the US. YLF is the camp I direct each summer, and I truly appreciate what the association offers me in terms of community, support, and creative ideas for programming. As our discussion began, the moderator asked each of us to share what we hope the students will take home with them after they have left YLF. I was not too excited to be chosen to speak first. I felt this pressure to set the bar high with an excellent response that would initiate conversation. But since I only had a few moments to prepare, I just spoke from the heart. I shared that I wanted the students to leave YLF knowing that they could be leaders. I made sure to point out that leadership didn’t necessarily have be directing an organization or facilitating discussion, but leadership could be as simple as demonstrating strong character, dependability, and focus. I referred to this as leading by example.
When I was chosen to attend YLF as a delegate camper at the age of sixteen, this idea of leadership intimidated me. I didn’t see myself as a leader; I was shy, awkward around my peers, and very aware of the fact that I had a disability. But YLF taught me that leadership is more than just the obvious or expected definition of the term. With leadership, particularly leadership by example, comes a certain amount of influence.
When I stopped to think about it, I realized that I exert quite a bit of influence in the areas in which I lead and serve. It caused me to consider whether I had demonstrated a positive example in the way in which I handled certain situations.
There have been obvious confirmations that I have influenced someone. For example, I mentored a young lady through music several years ago, and I can recall the girl’s grandmother thanking me for being a great role model and mentor to her granddaughter. Then there was a young man with a disability who said something like this to me: “I think I know why you and I were introduced. It was so you could point me in the right direction… to be a good influence on my life.”
Then, there are areas in which I serve where I try to set a good example and mirror Christ, but I’m never quite sure if I’m being effective. I think of the evening when a few peers and I got together to talk over coffee. One of the participants was using some choice four-letter words, which I found quite offensive. I sat quietly for awhile, just taking it in, but finally, I just had to say something. As tactfully as I could, I told her that I really wished she wouldn’t talk like that and that I was uncomfortable. She toned it down a little after that, but in the back of my mind, I wondered what she thought about the whole ordeal. I hoped that in some way, I caused her to think about the words she chose to speak. Perhaps some day, my words of intervention will come back to her before she utters any unnecessary foul words.
In a more general sense, I am aware that I influence others in a less direct fashion. I lead the worship teams at my church, the staff and delegates at YLF, and the ladies in my Bible Studies. In all I do, I strive to lead by example. No, I am not perfect, but if I truly seek to reflect Christ in all I do, I must continue to exert my influence in positive and meaningful ways.
We can all exert influence, even in the everyday and mundane. Even smiling at someone from a distance or sharing a kind word can carry influence as well. So, the next time you’re at the store, working out at the gym, running errands, or at the office, think about the people you could reach through the example you set. Even when you are on the phone, sending an email, or posting to Facebook, remember that you are interacting with people and therefore leading and influencing in your own unique way. Don’t shy away from the way in which God may be choosing to use you for His honor and glory. Go ahead; influence away!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s