I had to learn to lead in ministry with a limp.
Long story made short, I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences. Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss when God called me into ministry. We sold a business mostly to get out from under the pressure of it and basically started over financially. God called me to serve Him vocationally – starting with nothing.
I entered vocational ministry and had to lead with a limp.
The truth is the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.
They may have had a serious failure. It could have simply been a mistake. Whatever happened, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward. Yet, they were never the same again. They were left with a limp.
If this is your story – if you have a limp and you’re in leadership – I want to offer some encouragement by sharing a few things I’ve learned.
5 ways to lead with a limp:
Don’t hide your limp.
There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’ve lost their way – or will some day. They need your guidance and encouragement. People need to see an example that they can get up again and move forward. You don’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’t pretend it isn’t true, either. Your story is your story.
Plus, your limp may be God’s way of keeping you humble. It appears Rahab in the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me I can’t change or hide my story for long.
Don’t be a martyr.
No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. There was a setback. Perhaps you made a critical error. Maybe there was sin involved. Or others sinned against you. Don’t wallow in your misery forever. It’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership.
One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. ”Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.” Recognize what happened is true – and deal with it. It’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.
Allow your limp to strengthen you.
You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or you can let it keep you from ever being whole again – and never realize your full potential.
Grace is available if you will receive it. There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things”. Consequences might remain. And perhaps they should depending on the circumstances.
But let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.
Be empathetic toward other with a limp.
There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp.
Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.
Keep limping across the finish line.
Don’t give up. You may not be able to complete the same journey depending on the circumstances. But you can forge a new and better path forward.
Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. In the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things.
Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues of leadership nuggets in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.
Used with permission from Ron Edmondson.