Leading Low

Guest Writer Nicola Bartel shares the importance of leading while serving when God asks you to do the impossible.




I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. I was asked if I would step into the role of Executive Director of Mercy Canada. My inside voice answered “Are you nuts? I am not the right one for that level of responsibility!” I felt sick to my stomach and my face became ashen.  Remembering that I had told God several years previous that I would trust him and say yes to his leading, I said yes.

I had taken a leap of faith years previous when I stepped out of the business world that I loved, to follow God’s call into social service work with teens and young adult women. There was a huge risk involved but I knew deep within I was to answer this calling, despite many well-meaning friends looking at all the practical reasons why I should stay put. I left the comfort of the business world full of fear, silently kicking and screaming on the inside. 

The change in direction truly turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made and God breathed his miraculous grace all over the decision. My passion is for young women to find their voice, for them to know that they matter and are seen. That decision gave birth to an even greater passion which came alive in a new way. I had always worked with youth in my church and was drawn to those on the fringes who were quiet or less popular.  What I did not realize was that my history of being bullied in grade 7 and 8 was the reason why I felt such love and care for these outcasts. Fast tracking all these years later, I thought I passed the test and had fulfilled all that God was asking of me. 

But God…….  “The mind of man makes his plans but God orders his steps”.  

Today, one of the most significant lessons I have learned in leadership is to lead low.  Leading low speaks of humility, serving, taking a back seat to others and creating space to know our staff team personally and individually. It means to show care, compassion and build up and challenge them to contribute their voice, ideas and struggles, knowing my office is a safe place to do so.

I make it a habit to revisit regularly one of my leadership life verses:  “But the wisdom from above is always purefilled with peaceconsiderate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace.”  James 3:17 TPT

As I highlight words and phrases of my leadership life verse I am both affirmed and convicted. I truly desire to live out these words as I lead in the way I have been wired by God.  I live these out also as I am lead by others whom I love and respect.

Always pure: speaks about checking intent and motive

Filled with peace: the fruit of pure intent and motives

Considerate: Character, making room for others

Teachable: Vulnerable and humble

Filled with love: Fruit of wisdom

Peaceful acts: Action

Cherish making peace: entering healthy conflict with a goal of peaceful resolution

And so I continue on this privileged journey of leaning on God and learning to lead low.


by Nicola Bartel


Nicola Bartel has been in active ministry to troubled young women since 1996. She first served on staff at a home for pregnant teens and young adult women, then managed, developed and implemented a program for adults living with the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. As the Executive Director of Mercy Canada, she oversees and provides direction for all aspects of the ministry, including programs, staffing, community relations and finances.

Anna Koehn