“Excuse me, *you* are the board chair? Of this national organization?”
Back in October of 2015 I was elected to lead the Board of Directors for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. At 32 years old I didn’t expect to take on this level of leadership quite so early in life. Frankly I was stunned.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one surprised by my election. Throughout my tenure as chair I’ve been questioned about my ability to lead because:
- I’m a mother. (“Will you have enough time to dedicate to this with a young daughter at home?”)
- I’m not yet* an ordained minister. (“Don’t we need someone with recognized theological authority to do this work?”)
- I’m young. (“But who will hold our institutional memory?”)
Fearing my own inadequacy and sensing doubt from others, I attempted to overcompensate for these perceived leadership shortfalls by trying extra hard to be the *perfect* board chair.
I bought books on Robert’s Rules of Order with the expectation that I could master every protocol in time for my first big meeting. (I couldn’t.)
I second guessed what I wrote in my chair reports and how I facilitated our meetings. Any mistake I made seemed massive and indicative of my inability to lead.
My perfectionistic tendencies didn’t do a thing to protect me from criticism; they just exhausted me.
Stepping into a new role like this is to be intimidating, particularly when we don’t look, speak, or act like the people who came before us. I guarantee there will be pushback and growing pains and frustrations–on all sides.
Over these two years what I’ve discovered is that when I stand in my truth, recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and use my gifts authentically, I’m able to live into my roles and responsibilities more fully and more effectively than when I’m chasing after perfection.
As I prepare to transition this role to the next chair, I confess I never did get a handle on Robert’s Rules. But I’ve learned to lead in a way that’s authentically me.
*I will be ordained a Baptist minister in early 2018. Stay tuned!