John Maxwell says that “Leadership is influence.”  He doesn’t say leadership is a man’s influence.

How many influential women can you name from the Bible? Whether they were good or bad, they had influence, which means they were leaders.

Sometimes we equate leadership to a title, and worry if we will be respected as a leader if the title doesn’t precede us into a meeting, but the respect comes from how you present yourself and the message you have to say.  Do women have a harder time being heard…? This has been my experience.

A co-worker and I met with a major Christian organization and as we introduced ourselves and “danced the dance” before the meeting began, my male co-worker was asked about his family and his position and blah, blah, blah… When the meeting began, the entire presentation was geared toward him.  The men from the other organization focused and made eye contact with him and at the point in time when I said something and they realized I was actually the one who would be making decisions; you could see their eyes grow big and visibly see them scramble to cover their mistake.  Was it funny to see… yes. Did it make me sad at the same time… yes. Are things changing…YES!

More and more women are becoming very well educated and taking their place at the table. The key though is developing maturity and wisdom. I have met a lot of millennials who think they know it all and aren’t willing to listen and find out why things are done the way they are before making wholesale changes; kind of like a teenager who rolls their eyes at Mom and Dad.  That kind of attitude doesn’t command respect; quite the opposite, it shows a lack of maturity and will keep you at the kids table for a longer time.

After 15 years in ministry and 50 countries, I have learned that every single person alive has something we can learn from them.  We come from different socio-economic backgrounds, different cultures; some are young, others are older.  People are white, black, red, orange and purple; they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and atheist, but everyone has a story from which you can learn.  If you treat a person with dignity and respect, you can make a friend and have the opportunity to become a richer human being.   THIS, is what brings maturity and wisdom and THIS, as a woman in leadership, will give you that seat at the table.

I’m 63 years old, love to listen to others and love to laugh.  Some of my very good friends are 20 and 30 something young ladies, but we have the best time exploring the different ways we think and why.  I love hearing how they want to lead in making a difference for the Kingdom of God and my part is both to encourage them and warn them of the mistakes I made.  I want them to go further than I ever hoped for or imagined; to become ALL that God wants them to be and do ALL that HE wants them to do… that would be a beautiful legacy.

Now, how do you define a woman in leadership? Begin with dignity and respect for all that starts in your heart and can be seen in your eyes. Then sit back and watch how God richly blesses.

Fran Andrews is a Project Manager at Lifeshape International, a ministry that connects Chick-fil-A Operators and staff with young leaders around the world, allowing them to build relationships and transform leadership potential. She’s travelled to over 50 countries, and discovered that people are alike all over the world. She’s passionate about connecting people, and learning from others in all walks of life.