Ever since I can remember, I’ve found myself in roles as a leader. It wasn’t anything I planned, but it came so naturally, like it was somehow wired in to my DNA.
As a leader among my neighborhood friends, I was quick to identify the “promised land,” otherwise known as a random spot in the woods that would house our very own BMX bike track. We’d ride our bikes with shovels across the handlebars and spend hours building mounds of dirt from which we’d hurl our young, immortal bodies. In middle school, I become involved in student government, serving as the Student Body President. That continued through high school, where I served a few years as Class President and was selected to represent our school at several leadership camps and local community organizations. At home, a sister with special needs required extra attention from mom, and extra time at work for dad, but ultimately taught us kindness, patience, and selflessness. I found myself in a role of leader and peacemaker, a kind of glue between the 5 kids and a mom and dad who were stretched to superhero lengths just to take care of us. In the community, I became a leader in church groups and other organizations I was involved with. And since before I graduated high school, my entrepreneurial endeavors left me in leadership positions ranging from startup to leading a company with nearly 70 employees, and everything in between.
These roles as a leader have all looked very different on the surface but have shared many of the same responsibilities and required many of the same characteristics. Being a leader comes with a lot of pressure, from sources external and internal. The highs are high, and the lows are low. In this most recent season of my life, I’ve carried a tremendous amount of weight as a leader, from challenges and failure, from new obstacles placed in my path.
My newest and most important leadership role is that of “husband” and that role too comes with a lot of pressure. I’ve been extra hard on myself this year. For one of the first times in my life, I’ve experienced challenges that I’ve been unable to fix. I’ve been down, I’ve been angry, and perhaps most difficult, I’ve felt lost. With big life transitions this year, I learned that I had built a lot of my identity around the people and projects I was invested in. When those things went away, so too did much of my identity. I was left wondering who I was, where I was going, what the point of it all was. This was new for me and I didn’t like it. I recognized that these obstacles were causing me to be less than the best version of myself, but I felt frozen, unable to snap out of it. Unsurprisingly, this only led to more feelings of guilt for not being a better leader and partner for my wife to look to.
Earlier this week, my wife shared a quote from an author she likes named Rachel Hollis, “We have a rule in our relationship— whoever has the better attitude is the leader... and we follow the leader! Whoever is feeling more positive? Leader. Whoever is feeling stronger? Leader. Whoever has stronger faith, bigger dreams, more energy? Leader. The thing is, the leader might flip back and forth several times in a single day or someone might lead out for an entire season while their partner is struggling.”
I really liked this perspective. It was insight that helped me allow myself some grace, for the times when I needed to look elsewhere for a leader to follow. It was especially refreshing to have my eyes opened to the frequency in which those roles can switch. With this in mind, my wife and I consciously switched roles 4 different times on Monday. And we were perfectly ok with that.
This chapter has helped me to learn that it’s ok to look to others as the leader in these moments of difficulty. Important then, to identify the people in our lives who we can trust to look to as leaders in the moments that we need to follow.