The Catalyst Leader's Courage: How New Can Make Great Leaders

Kara Powell | Apr 9, 2013

“What would you pursue today if you weren’t afraid to fail? If you knew for certain that you were the one to make it happen? Go do that.”

That is the encouraging and challenging invitation from Brad Lomenick in his inspiring new book, The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker. Brad’s the President and Key Visionary of Catalyst—a movement geared to equip and inspire young Christian leaders. I’ve been thinking more about Catalyst lately as I prepare to share about Sticky Faith link here at Catalyst West Coast next week.

Brad’s “8 essentials for becoming a change maker” range from being called and capable to being authentic and hopeful. Brad’s strengths as a writer and leader are many, including his ability to take himself lightly (you’ll have to read The Catalyst Leader yourself to chuckle over his comments about his “skinny jeans”) and the way he profiles both well-known leaders (ranging from Chuck Swindoll and John Perkins) to lesser-known (and often younger) influencers. The first few leaders Brad describes were male, so early on, I was a little concerned that there would be a paucity of female leaders. To my delight and to Brad’s credit, the next few leaders he praises are female and the book profiles a great mixture of male and female heroes.

Of the 8 essentials, the one that keeps reverberating in my heart and mind is his invitation to be “courageous”. Brad quotes well-known lead pastor Andy Stanley from a 2011 Catalyst talk:

“Fear in leadership usually is connected to the uncertainty about the future. But uncertainty about the future is never going to go away. I tell leaders all the time—uncertainty is why there are leaders. Uncertainty gives you job security.”

I’m not really a wholehearted risk-taker. I am more of a “calculated” risk-taker. I conduct analysis, weigh pros and cons, pray, and move forward. But these days I’m sensing the Lord nudging me to take more risks. Our team at FYI is working on some exciting—but more risky—projects. Our church is inviting our family to consider a choice that is risky for the next year. These are not choices I can make through calculation. They require guts. Heart. Prayer. Trust in God. A willingness to fail.

As I think about when courage is needed, it’s often when something new is on the horizon. What does courage look like for you as a leader and parent facing new challenges or questions? I can imagine it might mean:

  • You say “yes” when asked to do something new, even if that something new scares you.

  • You say “no” when asked to do something new, because “no” is the right answer and you’re not going to give into your people pleasing tendencies and sacrifice your well-being to appease someone else.

  • You talk to someone new in your neighborhood, workplace, or even your church.

  • You try something new in your family or ministry – something you’ve been contemplating for a while.

It’s not that new is inherently good. New doesn’t always mean improved. That’s why one of the examples I gave above involved saying “no” to something new. But new does give you an opportunity to step out in courage.

What has helped you find courage as you face something new?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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