by Selma Wilson
Most people see history as a waste of time. It’s not always exciting to hear stories about the past, and many reserve this for the older generation. It’s true that glamorizing the past can leave you longing to go back rather than forward. But ignoring the past can be just as dangerous. Knowing your history can make all the difference in charting the path to the future.
Right now I am reading the first book published by Lifeway Christian Resources (formerly The Baptist Sunday School Board). The founding leader of Lifeway, Dr. J.M. Frost, had the vision, courage, and leadership strength to forge the path for publishing that is at the core of Lifeway’s mission today. The first book, The Story of Yates the Missionary by Charles E. Taylor, is rich with our nation’s history, church history and Baptist history. The book has reminded me of how Baptist churches cooperated together to provide education for ministers and support for missionaries, which we still do today.
What is your organization’s history? Your church’s history? Your personal history? Take a glance back and let it fuel your heart, mind, and body to lead with courage and commitment today.
Here are 3 critical leadership lessons you can learn from leaders in the past.
1. The courage of leadership.
In your history, someone had to step up and accept the challenge of leadership. For some, it was the courage to face the critics and say yes when others were saying no. For some, it was putting all their financial resources on the line for something they believed in strongly. A few even put their lives on the line. Knowing the courage of those that went before you will give you strength to face the challenges of today.
2. The sacrifice of leadership.
What does sacrifice mean to you? I’m not sure I’ve ever really experienced sacrifice. When I look to the past, I find men and women who were willing to sacrifice personally, financially, and relationally for the things they believed in. The sacrifice of people in the past often brings me to my knees and reminds me that the opportunities I have today are because others gave up so much. If you want a good dose of leadership humility (and we all need it!), dig into your past.
3. The commitment of leadership.
It’s easy to quit in our culture. When things get tough, many will even tell us to quit because we deserve something better, easier, and with more benefits. All around us people are quitting their marriages, their churches, their work, and their leadership responsibilities. We need to be reminded of those that went before us who didn’t quit but finished the race with unwavering commitment. We need to learn from them that staying the course no matter how hard may be exactly what God is calling us to do. Their commitment will strengthen your own.
What other leadership lessons do we learn from the past?