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03 December 2012

What inspired me as a young leader

What inspired me as a young leader

That’s a great question to reflect on having been a Christian for over forty years now and been in leadership positions of one sort or another in the Christian world for most of that time. I fell into leadership only a few months in to my new found relationship with Jesus, blissfully unaware of what I was taking on and full of naïve expectations. Two years on I was in a regional and national student leadership role, still not really knowing what I was doing and possessing a sneaking suspicion that they’d soon find out that I wasn’t the spiritual giant I thought I ought to be!

In those early months and years it was more who inspired me rather than what. Their lives stimulated dreams that I too could be involved in people’s transformation by God’s love. And they encouraged me to keep going when I found the naivety being stripped away as I encountered the day to day realities of leadership.

My source of inspiration was someone long dead, as well as people very much alive from which I’ll pick one special person. The former was the pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor. Soon after becoming a Christian I was given a book about him that I read repeatedly. I still have that book full of underlined passages and scribbled pencil notes in the margins. What gripped me was his passion for God, and his unwillingness to be side-tracked from what he believed he had been called to do. Disappointment, opposition, and even personal tragedy dogged his footsteps but still he persevered. The vision, the calling, and the goal for him was to take the gospel to China and see that good news take root in people’s lives. And despite all he went through, at times almost hanging on by his finger nails, that was what drove him. He kept in mind the big picture and it shaped all he did. It was this that marked out his leadership for me, challenging and inspiring me in my own situation.

The second person was a woman called Meg Foote. In the 1970s there were very few women leaders in the Christian world that could be role models to unmarried young women like me. She was the vice-principal of the Bible College at which I spent two very formative years. She possessed a quiet authority, a twinkle in her eye indicating she didn’t take herself too seriously, and a Biblically-grounded humanity that spoke volumes of hope to the rest of us. And on top of that she was a great encourager. Being a woman leader can’t have been easy for her at the time but you never got a sense of her being strident in pushing her point yet neither of her apologising for that authority she both carried and exercised in a very male world. Grace and humour, a sense of adventure that was still hers in old age, a deep confidence in her identity as God’s child plus bundles of God-shaped practical wisdom are the leadership lessons from her that remain with me today.

What inspired me then still inspires me now. The individuals may change but their potential impact remains undiminished. Consequently, I have a two-fold prayer. First, that I will be someone who is teachable and flexible, willing to learn from those who these days may be younger than me but from whom I can still gain a lot. And secondly, that I can be in some small way an inspiration for others as both Hudson Taylor and Meg Foote were to me!

by Fran Beckett, leadership and governance consultant

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