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“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” — John 13:34

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Susan Jackson-Dowd
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What is leadership? Are you a leader?

What do you think of when you hear “leader”? Someone who has power? Often power or authority comes with an official position or job. However, positional power is only one type of power. Think about the power as influence or capacity, then “leader” becomes a term that applies to all of us, not just those in high positions.

Líderes Campesinas, a farmworker’s organization in California, works to develop leadership skills in campesinas (female farm workers) to improve their work environments and bring about other positive social changes. When asked, “Who in this group is a leader?” almost no women identify themselves as leaders. However, when women are asked if they have organized a quinceañera (a large family celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday), all the hands go up. The facilitator shows the women that they have already demonstrated leadership skills and that they are leaders. The women go on to identify the leadership skills necessary for organizing a quinceañera and the personal power that they possess regardless of their position in society.1

These female farm workers do not have positional power, but the quinceañera story shows that leadership skills can be earned in a variety of ways.

Leadership in context

Think about the terms “leader” and “leadership” in the context of your life. Are you a leader? Of course you are! Think about the skills needed to organize a large family or church event. Make a list of those skills.

  • Do you set the purpose for the event and work purposefully?
  • Do you prepare and execute a plan?
  • Do you care about the well-being of everyone coming to the event?
  • Does your plan take into account the diverse needs of the people you’ll be serving and/or ministering to?
  • Do you prepare a budget based on your assessment of the needs?
  • Do you communicate?
  • Are you a team player?
  • Do you delegate?

Your list may include more skills than these — and ones that speak of your particular leadership gifts. Remember these gifts the next time you discuss leadership or find yourself in a position of influence. We all have the capacity to create and effect change to fulfill God’s promise that God’s people “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).

1.Maylei Blackwell, “Farmworker Women’s Organizing and Gendered Grassroot Leadership,” CSW Update, June 2006.


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