What has 2021 taught you? And how do those lessons apply to leadership? As leaders we are continually learning, so today I’m sharing what I’ve learned this year and some books I’d recommend you check out.

photo of sunrise on Gulf Shores - leadership lessons I learned in 2021

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We always ask our guests on this show what they are learning, but I realized recently that I haven’t shared what I’m learning. So today, I want to share with you a few reflections about what I’ve learned in 2021. Plus, I want to share with you a few resources you might want to check out to help you in your leadership journey.

This episode is brought to you by my upLIFT Mentormind. This is a program designed exclusively for Christian women who are building a business online and who are ready to thrive, streamline their marketing, and hit their financial goals.

The program is now open to join at any point, so to learn more, you can visit upliftmentormind.com and click “apply” – after that, I’ll be in touch! You can also send me a DM on Instagram and let me know you’re interested. 

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned in 2021:

Lesson 1: Surrender is an ongoing process

Way back in episode 6, I shared about the idea of leading with confidence and what it means to me. To summarize:

Leading with confidence looks like this:

  • Accepting the love God has for you and then pouring that love into others;
  • Accepting that God made you on purpose, so you should live your life with purpose;
  • Accepting the leadership of Christ and then leading others that God has placed in your sphere of influence.

I also shared a graphic that shows how each of these points have an aspect of surrender and then an aspect of action. The acceptance side of each point is surrender, and the other side is an action step: loving others; living out your purpose; leading others.

Leadership truly starts with surrender. You can’t be an effective leader without surrendering yourself to God and to His will for you.

Surrender means you’re giving up your right to control or be in charge. Instead, you are putting yourself under the leadership of God.

But there’s also an ongoing aspect of surrender. Because if you’re anything like me, you might try to continually take control back. And of course, there are so many areas of our lives that we might try to control.

For me, it’s often been:

  • My family
  • My finances
  • Situations at church

2021 has been a year of continuing to be reminded of my need to surrender these areas (and other areas) to God. To let go of my need to control and to embrace the adventure that comes when God is leading.

“Leadership truly starts with surrender.”

Lesson 2: There’s almost always something going on in someone’s life that you don’t see

Often we look at someone’s life from the outside or we see their business is thriving or we look at their leadership and think it’s so incredible. But, once you get to know the person, you might discover that they are fighting a battle you never could have seen on the outside.

Now some people have battles that are fairly public. But many times, there are challenges that we don’t know about going on in people’s lives.

Each time I take the time to get to know someone a little more, I find that I can be surprised by what I didn’t know. And when you do this, you can have more compassion and empathy for their situation.

Our conversation with Bonnie Gray really hit the nail on the head. Bonnie said, “Loneliness is just a human condition–doesn’t matter what color you are, we’re all lonely.”

So the next time you start to judge someone for the way they are behaving or the thing they posted on the internet or how they treated you in the store… just remember that they might be dealing with devastating news or an ongoing struggle that no one knows about.

God is reminding me that as a leader and as a Christian, it’s vital to ask questions and stay curious instead of jumping to judgment.

“As a leader, and as a Christian, it’s vital to step back and ask questions, and stay curious instead of jumping to judgment.”

quote graphic: “As a leader, and as a Christian, it's vital to step back and ask questions, and stay curious instead of jumping to judgment.”

Lesson 3: Stories are powerful

When I attended the Write Your Story workshop with Donald Miller and Ally Fallon in November, I sat in a room with about 50 other people… only one of whom I knew before I went to the event.

But part of what happened during those 2 days together is that we got to hear bits and pieces of peoples’ stories. Sometimes someone would stand up and share maybe 1-2 minutes of their story. And I found that as I listened, these stories could bring me to tears, cause me to feel shocked or angry, or be filled with laughter and joy.

Stories are powerful, and everyone has a story.

AND, stories can be used for good OR for evil.

As leaders, we must learn how to use stories in our life and leadership. People relate to stories much more than being told what to do. They relate to personal experiences and all the emotions that come with this.

In the church, in our businesses, in our families… I often want to communicate a point or get someone to understand our perspective. And my tendency is to go straight to: “Here’s the thing you need to know and this is why it’s important.”

But what God is teaching me and reminding me is that stories are vital and an effective way to communicate.

“We need to learn how to use our stories in our life and our leadership.”

Lesson 4: Space & thinking time is necessary

My husband and my best friend have a lot in common. One of the things they have in common is that they love to start the morning slowly. In particular, they like to have coffee and sit and stare out the window.

It’s a running joke that we have, because for a long time I have not understood this. I do enjoy my coffee in the morning but I’m usually reading my bible for journaling or doing something else. I’m generally not sitting and just starting out the window.

But, throughout this year (and probably in 2020) as well, God is teaching me how valuable empty space is. How important it is to sit and think with no agenda.

For me this can be very hard to do. But I’m also learning that the more responsibility you have, this becomes more and more important.

If you are only ever in the day-to-day doing of the work or leadership, you are not able to make those bigger, more significant decisions you need to make as a leader.

For someone who enjoys “getting stuff done” this can be incredibly challenging. But I really want to encourage you to set up time in your schedule for space–for thinking time.

Space and time away from my normal routine helps me to sometimes have new ideas or energy for my life and business.

Finally, sometimes we need different amounts of space based on the season of life we are in or the goals we have. If you are looking to take on a big project or a new leadership role, then you may need more space than you did previously.

“The more responsibility you have, time and space to think becomes more and more important.”

Lesson 5: Relationships can be built virtually, but community is solidified when you’re face to face

Another lesson I’ve learned this year is the value of being with people in real life or face to face. You see, so much of my work is virtual. I record these podcasts virtually. I work with my clients and students virtually. I connect with some friends virtually.

We even attended church for a time virtually back in 2020 when we were not meeting in person. But this year, I’ve been able to be in person with my community a lot more.

We hosted a small group at our home. I went to Clarity to Courage in October, and then 2 more business events in person after that. We’ve been in person at church all year.

And I have to tell you, being able to be with friends and clients and new acquaintances in person is a game changer.

I know that virtual is effective because I’ve done it for years. I’ve made many friends in FB groups and then built that relationship through zoom and Voxer. But the moments you can have when you are face to face with someone–those are truly irreplaceable.

If you haven’t taken the time to reflect on what you’ve learned this year, I encourage you to do so. You can check out this episode with Christa Hutchins as well as this one with Holly and I if you need some inspiration for reflecting.

“Community is solidified when you’re face to face.”

5 Books I Recommend:


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