While many of you were enjoying Valentine’s Day with your special someone, I decided to join 1100 middle school students at a youth retreat in the Colorado mountains. I’m still a little upset that I didn’t get chocolate, flowers and wine, but I will get over it?. Hopefully, my husband will too. Gratefully, I learned a lot about caring leadership.
I absolutely love living in Colorado! I enjoy the crisp air, the snow-capped mountains, the extensive hiking opportunities and the people. Needless to say, I was eager to chaperone this event as I always heard amazing feedback from the previous years’ chaperones. It sounded transformative. Indeed, it was.
What I enjoyed most about my time at this retreat were the small group sessions. Warmly, my group was extra special, since I had sixth and seventh grade girls, many of them were in my son’s class. Nostalgically, I saw them grow up. As a result, they were more comfortable with me. This environment was ripe for a leadership lesson on how to lead the whole person.
Surprisingly, the weight of leadership was on my shoulders as I asked them questions and could see their reliance on me for the answers. I asked them questions of faith, personal identity, prioritization and much more. There answers were both innocent and transparent. I wanted to respond to them in that moment. Then, I needed to both show them compassion and remain strong when my heart hurt for some who expressed confusion and dislike for who they were and how they could best impact the world. More importantly, I knew I needed to lead the whole person.
Admittedly, I held back tears after hearing their responses. Unfortunately, Many felt unworthy, unfulfilled, like they didn’t belong and like they were lost.
On my podcast and in my writing, I talk about the need to not appear perfect or untouched sitting with those we lead. Truthfully, I was the one being led. Honestly, they exhibited caring leadership as they listened intently to the others present and responded with empathy.
The true meaning of “lead the whole person” came to a head for me this weekend. Proudly, I left there feeling like I created a safe space for them to air their fears, questions and concerns without judgement. These young ladies wanted to find a place where they could be themselves and accepted for all their quirkiness. Certainly, I hope they found that in these small group meetings.
I will forever be grateful for that time. I will think of them fondly and pray that the best comes to them. My hope will be that they are called to do what they were put on this earth to do, and that they answer that call with excitement and authenticity.
Leading others is a huge responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. Fundamentally, our people depend on us to help them see their way out of darkness and confusion and into a place of enlightenment and light. Finally, let’s all resolve to lead the whole person and meet our people where we find them. I received a gift for doing so. I pray that you can find a gift like this too.