"Ouch that hurts!"
Leading while walking through pain.
Just over a year ago, my dearest aunt – my “godmother” and kindred spirit received the diagnosis of terminal cancer. She fought hard to maximize the time she had left with her family, but within nine months, the moment came for the hardest of goodbyes. It has been a few months since she passed, but the loss of her is still very real and something that come to mind on a daily basis.
How does this relate to leadership? Walking through this painful experience taught me deep truths about who I needed to be (and not be) as a leader during this season. God is active in the incubator of searing pain, disappointment, and the ending of our earthly timelines. Through these experiences, He nurtures us and helps us find deep, true and lasting lessons.
Lesson One: Keep the main thing, the MAIN thing.
Be okay with the implications of a changing focus – especially if it drifts from work to family for a specific reason. When a family receives a terminal diagnosis, it is more than “ok” to re-focus your time and energy with laser clarity and unashamed priority. For me, this meant ministry and leadership was often scaled back in favor of bedside conversations, doctor appointments, and practical love. My aunt’s final months, days and hours were the moments of life that became the main ”thing,” meaning other priorities got shelved for a season. When we shift our focus in leadership to God’s calling at that particular time, “things” may be set aside or dropped – and that is okay! My main focus determined my priorities – this did not mean the other items were not important, but needed to be excluded and paused for a short time.
Lesson Two: Being replaceable is a leadership WIN!
I have been privileged to lead an incredible team. As I was walking through this season of my life, they stepped in, stepped up and I stepped out. This team of people stood in the gap, rose to the challenge and carried the ministry forward, when I was not able to do so. Even though I was wanted, I was not needed as they had the tools they required to rise up and carry on. While I would like to take credit for imparting these tools on them, all I could do at that time was empower them – if for no reason other than out of necessity and timing. It is a leadership victory if your team can function and thrive in your absence.
Lesson Three: Humility is beautiful and powerful.
During this season, I was more raw, real, transparent and humble than I can ever recall. Those who know me, know I allow few to enter into my personal space. I am known as someone who is typically unflappable, confident and outgoing. I quickly learned I was not as strong nor resilient as I believed myself to be – I was sad, distracted and lonely for most of last year. Walking through the messiness taught me to stand in awe of humility’s power. Someone once told me that people will identify with my weakness, not my strengths – I found this to be true as I continue to open up about the heartbreaking year I had to walk through. I have endeared myself to the team whom I lead and serve – we have formed stronger bonds, become effective, and built trust which will carry us forward in our ministry.
If you would ever like to hear more about leading through pain, buy me a coffee and I would love to walk you through all the nitty-gritty. My prayer for you is that when you have an “ouch that hurts” leadership season, the lessons you learn will be deep, true and lasting, and will glue your team together, more than ever before.
By Kim Savage
Kim Savage is wife, mother, ambitious career gal and most importantly a beloved daughter of the Most High King and follower of Jesus. Kim came to faith in her late teens though Young Life and she has spent most of her career in project management and leadership for the non-profit sector. Only in the last couple years did God call her into ministry. Kim currently serves at Gracepoint Community Church. She has a heart for the marginalized and believes that God calls His church to be His hands and feet in the world – making significant impact in our communities.