At a pivotal church planters conference, amidst a sea of aspiring leaders and visionaries, I encountered a person who would forever change the trajectory of my professional and personal life. It was a meeting that began as a simple conversation but unfolded into a profound lesson in leadership, self-awareness, and the courage to embrace one’s true strengths and limitations.

For years, I had prided myself on being a leader, someone capable of steering projects and teams towards their goals. Yet, my approach had always been hands-on, perhaps too much so. I was a manager, or so I thought, dedicated to overseeing every detail, every decision. But this conference, and more specifically, this enlightening conversation, revealed a starkly different truth: I was not a great manager. The realization hit me like a cold splash of water.

My new acquaintance, with years of experience and wisdom, saw something in me that I had failed to recognize. He described me as a disrupter, a creative force, a leader who could inspire and mobilize people towards a vision. But he also pointed out my propensity to micromanage, to dive into the cockpit at every opportunity, often to the detriment of the project and team. “You’re the kind of leader who can get the plane off the ground,” he said, “but once it’s in the air, you need to lock yourself out of the cockpit lest you crash it.”

This analogy struck a chord. It was an uncomfortable acknowledgment of my limitations but also an eye-opening revelation of my true strengths. I began to understand the difference between being a leader and a manager. Leadership, I learned, wasn’t about controlling every aspect but about inspiring, guiding, and then trusting others to do their part. It was about setting the direction, then stepping back to let the team fly.

The concept of servant leadership came into sharp focus. I realized that true leadership meant serving others, enabling them to reach their full potential, and putting the mission above personal ego. It was a humbling but exhilarating lesson, one that reshaped my understanding of my role in any endeavor.

Armed with this new perspective, I embarked on launching Impact Wisconsin. This time, I approached leadership differently. I focused on being the visionary, the disrupter who could inspire change and set things in motion. But I also made a conscious effort to step back, to trust my team, and to embrace the role of a servant leader. It was a transformative shift that not only allowed Impact Wisconsin to thrive but also helped me grow as a leader and a person.

Looking back, that conversation at the church planters conference was a turning point. It was a moment of self-discovery that taught me the importance of understanding not just your strengths but also your weaknesses. It reminded me that sometimes, the best way to lead is to let go, to empower others, and to focus on serving the greater good. This lesson in leadership has been instrumental in my journey, shaping my approach to every project and challenge since.

As I continue to lead, innovate, and serve, I hold onto the invaluable insights from that day. Leadership is about vision, inspiration, and service. It’s about getting the plane in the air and trusting your team to fly it. This understanding has not only guided me in my professional endeavors but has also enriched my personal growth, making me a better leader, colleague, and community member.