My oldest daughter turns 12 tomorrow. When she was younger, she had imaginary friends. Each friend had a name, none of which I can remember. But the name made them personal.
Hang with me for a minute. If you have children, or have ever been one, then you know the power that comes from giving something a name.
We name our stuffed animals. We name our cars (at my former church, “Bertha” was our temperamental van). We name our guitars. Well, you may not have guitars, but I name my guitars and those of other people (shout out to Tay Tay).
There’s an affection that comes from naming them. There’s a sense of pride and ownership. There’s a sense of power.
But at the end of the day, the stuffed animal is a stuffed animal. The guitar is a guitar. The car is a car. The name does nothing to change the fundamental existence. It makes us feel better or more connected, but it does not change the core.
Leadership is the same way. We can give someone the name of leader, but does that truly change who they are at the core?
I see it time and again in student ministry and in watching people who work with students. They wait for students to show a sign of achievement before bestowing the name of leader. Students lift the renaming up as part of their goal–some target to aim for or strive towards. Once they “become a leader”, then they will step up and lead.
What if this approach misses the point completely? What if I am a leader regardless of whether or not I have the title?
What if I am not searching for someone to give a new name, but instead for someone who already doing what leaders do?
I have said this before, and I will repeat it until I stop breathing or am shown that I’m wrong: leadership doesn’t show up because of a title. You can influence people around you regardless of your place on the org chart. You don’t need a title or a position to exert influence. You need a mindset.
I regularly talk with students about “making the room better.” I want them to walk into a room and it to be a better place because they are there, regardless of their title.
This is what I strive for. I don’t have to be up front to accomplish this. I don’t have to touch every life in the room to accomplish this. But I have to be consistent.
Stop waiting for a title to come your way to lead. Grow your influence.
Stop waiting to bestow a title on a student who is worthy. Throw the title away and help them grow their influence.
Then, at some point down the road, you and they will look up and realize you, and they, are making the room better.
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