Over the years, I’ve gleaned so many working principles from leaders–more than I could ever begin to write.  On Friday, October 14, a group of ministry leaders met at Chicago O’Hare Airport.  We spent the day gleaning from each other.

It is a beneficial day for me.  As I recall and review the interactions, I realize there was an overarching principle that I pray will reshape my life and my leadership skills.

Sitting among these gracious and loving women and men I know they have given their lives and fortunes to a population that most people in the world have either thrown away or ignored.  During lunch, as we munched on really, bad pizza, I was taken back to my first interaction with a national leader.

I was about 21 years old, married, with one child.  Because I had served as the church secretary at 19, I was an active member and considered a potential leader of our congregation.  Therefore, when it came time to elect people to attend a national conference for our denomination that was being held in our state, I was asked to be a representative.  Excited about the opportunity, I agreed to serve.

One speaker struck me as I sat in the audience of the large, ornate church hosting the conference.  She oozed with graciousness, confidence and godliness.  She spoke with grace and clarity.  I leaned forward in my seat wanting to hear more.  Her report was just as boring as all the others; but SHE was the attraction for me.  Deep inside, this was the person I wanted to be when I grew up.

I was totally dumbfounded when I rushed into the ladies’ room later in the day to be facing this leader who had so impressed me.  Again, I was impressed by her but in the opposite direction.  She was cold and aloof with the women who crowded into the small area.  Deliberately ignoring and shunning the little people who wanted to interact with her, I gleaned from her actions that she felt as though they only wanted to take and devour a piece of her.

I was bitterly disappointed as I watched her wait in line, straightening her skirt.  Without making eye contact, she washed her hands, put on her lipstick, and left.  Undaunted, I approached her and thanked her for the devotional report.  She stared right through me, barely grunting without a smile.  Her performance was as perfect in these crowded quarters as it had been on stage.  However, in contrast, among the women she was leading, everything about her screamed, “Leave me alone!”

Please understand even that day, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Everyone has a bad patch.  She had lots of pressure on her; and she simply didn’t have time to interact with everyone.  But I learned from her a great lesson; and it was enforced by the leaders who congregated in the humble meeting at the Chicago airport.

Leadership is not taught.  Leadership is caught.  The attitude and actions of leaders scream out to others.  Their words and teachings merely speak.

Nella Uitvlugt, Executive Director of Friendship Ministries

In Chicago on Friday, as national leaders within the mentally challenged community went around the table to share their vision for ministry, it was their attitude that struck me.  Each one was hungry for fellowship with comrades in action.  Each person said, “I will never retire.  I will die doing this ministry.”  Each person spoke of a future where people with intellectual disabilities find in the arms of the Church a loving and warm haven from the rejection of the world.  Each leader’s heart enunciated in action–not word–the love of a Savior whose passion is that no person be left in the cold wandering from their home in heaven.

From these leaders, I caught a renewed vision of Christ’s love and a fresh yearning for my leadership skills to become more developed in the area of graciousness and love.  I want my actions and attitude to scream out to a lost and dying world, “Jesus loves you.  This I know for the Bible tells me so.”