Leadership is Narrative – The Importance of the Story

I’ve just finished reading The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters by Dr. Albert Mohler.  As a student of leadership, I have a collection of books on the subject written from many different perspectives.  My collection is but a small representation of the books written, showing that leadership is a topic of interest to people in every field.  Dr. Mohler’s book is excellent and I highly recommend it, especially for the way he has woven the core value of conviction throughout important aspects of leadership.

With our current WMU emphasis of The Story Lives On, I was particularly drawn to the chapter entitled Leadership Is Narrative.  The one-line statement about the chapter says: “The leader draws followers into a story that frames all of life” (37).  For me, the story of redemption as revealed in scripture is THE story that is foundational to my life and the WMU story is a significant avenue of living and proclaiming the redemption story.

As we celebrate the 125th birthday of WMU, we have declared that during this emphasis we will:
– Celebrate the radical stories of WMU – past and present
– Connect our stories as we forge our future
– Commit to tell the gospel story and ignite a passion for the Great Commission in all generations

In The Conviction to Lead, Dr. Mohler reminds us that “the most important truths come alive through stories” (37).  He points out that while leaders often stress the mission and vision of an organization, these “mean little apart from the story that explains why what we are doing is important in the first place” (38).   Of leaders and the story, Dr. Mohler says that “leadership comes down to protecting the story, bringing others into the story, and keeping the organization accountable to the story. The leader tells the story over and over again, refining it, updating it, and driving it home” (38).

I enjoy reading WMU history and relish telling how WMU began. I am enjoying this emphasis because it is a perfect opportunity to tell the story of our work and why it matters that the WMU story lives on.  I am the product of life-long WMU influence.  I memorized Bible verses, studied missions, learned the locations of countries around the world, had missionaries as my heroes, learned Baptist beliefs and history through Forward Steps in GAs, and affirmed my belief in things like tithing under the teaching of WMU leaders and materials.

Dr. Mohler says that “leadership that matters grows out of the leader’s own belief that the story is true, that it matters, and that is must both expand and continue. The story must be believed with conviction, told with conviction, and stewarded with conviction” (39).

While I could identify with something in every chapter, one other chapter especially gripped me in light of our emphasis – The Passion to Lead. It is my prayer that every WMU leader has a passion about our work that energizes us over and over again for the task of the Great Commission and challenging others to join us.  As we present our plans, we cannot be ho-hum, but as Mohler says, our plans “must be presented with the language of passion and purpose” (55). 

The following excerpt describes what we as WMU leaders must remember: “People who are drawn to a great need will be passionate about meeting it. Those who see a great and worthy opportunity will be energized to seize and sacrifice for it. Organizations driven by passion thrive on the experience of seeing change happen in the service of common convictions….As new people come into the movement, they must be trained in the convictions if they are to share the passion. When trouble is confronted, the leader responds consistently with the convictions in order to protect the passion” (56).

In my blog The Staying Power of WMU, I stated my conviction that the reason why WMU continues to generate excitement about missions is found in the vision and objectives which guide everything we do.  In that blog I said, “The WMU vision statement points to the Great Commission purpose of WMU and to our commitment to missions discipleship. This is the passion of WMU because the gospel story and the Great Commission matter.”

For our recent Kentucky WMU Executive Board meeting, I displayed my personal collection of WMU memorabilia.  I have purchased some interesting things on Ebay, but the most precious are the things from my growing up years.  I still have my GA crown, scepter, cape, and charm bracklet. I have two GA autograph books and notebooks of things that I did to complete the requirements of steps such as Queen, Queen in Service, Queen with a Scepter, and Queen Regent.  As an advocate of the Cooperative Program today, it was fascinating to look at a picture included in one of the notebooks of a poster that I made in 1968 about the Cooperative Program.

The WMU story matters because we are still casting the vision of missions around the world.  We are still teaching preschoolers, children, youth and adults the importance of the gospel story and our responsibility to share it.  We are still praying and giving so that those who have never heard will have that opportunity.  And people today are still saying that this story has impacted my life and I am part of making sure it lives on.

During The Story Lives On emphasis, Missions Mosaic is sharing the stories of WMU leaders whose passion and courage influenced WMU.  In September we read about Ann Baker Graves who died before WMU was born, but who planted the seeds of the WMU organization, including the use of the mite box to raise money for missions.  In October we read of Martha McIntosh who was not only the first president of WMU, but who was also a remarkable fund-raiser and led her state of South Carolina to give one-third of the first Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This month we read of Fannie E.S. Heck from North Carolina who served as the WMU president for 15 years and led WMU to begin its first periodical, Our Mission Fields.

At the 2013 Kentucky WMU Annual Meeting we will have a time line where you are invited to attach your WMU story.  You can start writing now, or use a form we will have available at the meeting.  In the meantime, tell your WMU story with conviction and draw others into our story to share THE story.

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About Joy Bolton

Joy Bolton is a life-long WMUer! Through Woman's Missionary Union, Joy has has served as a church, association, and state leader. She has coordinated many international missions teams and is available as a conference leader, speaker, Bible study leader. Joy is now retired and lives in Summerville, SC.