I remember it well. It was our 8th grade end of the year assembly right before 4th period. Time to hand out the scholastic and academic annual awards. I got up three times to receive my Captain of the Field Hockey, Captain of the Basketball and Captain of the Lacrosse letters. Then unbeknownst to me, Ms. Macklin, our athletic director, got up and announced that they had a special medal this year to one of the only female athletes to receive 3 Captain titles in the history of our middle school. As she announced my name, I went up to receive my special award and when I turned around there he was. My father was cheering from the back row standing and clapping (he was easy to spot, since he was the only person in the room standing and frankly I don’t even think he realized it or cared). Surprised to see my dad, I ran up to him and gave him a big hug. My dad never missed a game or an opportunity to encourage me. Dad leaned over to me and said with a smile, “Eve, I don’t know what you’re going to decide do with your life, or all the places you’ll go, all I can tell you is, like it or not, you’re going to lead and people are going to follow.”
It was at that point I had my defining moment. And from that instant on I set out to do just that – figure out how, what, and who to lead. Sometimes liking it and sometimes not. But, what my father neglected to tell me is that I was going to be one of the only women in my management circles. He never warned me that the other department heads hanging out at “mahogany hall” weren’t going to look like me. He didn’t elaborate that I was going to have to work smarter, try harder, and accomplish more than my male collogues while yearning for respect. He didn’t share the stats that show women earn less money, get less important job titles and smaller office space (crazy isn’t it – but think about your work, do the men have bigger offices, better titles and more pay?). And it never crossed my dad’s mind to make a list of setbacks that would befall me if, and when, I ever chose to start a family. He didn’t advise me of the enormous challenges ahead whilst trying to balance being a wife, mother and employee that can sometimes result to even more gender hurdles, resistance, and loneliness. No, my father never put it that way. However, Author Nancy Beach poignantly illustrate this exact journey in her latest book, “Gifted To Lead: The Art Of Leading As A Woman In The Church.” It’s inspiring, refreshing and filled with guidance, hope and truth coupled with Nancy’s passion and grace to help women navigate leadership roles in a man’s world. Such experience from this pioneer, (that makes her sound too old) rather, this revolutionary woman of influence. I’m going to spend some time unpacking her discoveries that will resonate with every leader – men leading other women leaders, women leading their household and/or the PTA or folks leading a team of any kind with her hard-earned wisdom such as:
“No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you a gift of leadership or teaching. …We must stop apologizing for our gifts and opportunities! We are not taking up too much room if we are seeking to fulfill a God ordained calling – a calling which may just require us to get over ourselves, take a deep breath, and simply start leading.”
My dear friend, amazing leader and woman of influence presented this book as a gift with the following inscription:
“I love the leader that you are – encouraging, generous, selfless, humble, loving.”
Not quite sure I can live up to her kind words, but I’m going to work really hard trying. Sure, I’m going to fail along the way, and probably often. But no matter what, I’m going to follow my calling whether I like it or not.