True Leaders Know When To Lead…And When To Follow

By Jerry McNellis

My daughter Lisa was a college freshman when our company was asked to lead a Compression Planning retreat for the International Board of Habitat for Humanity. She went along to handle logistics.

Habitat for Humanity had a tradition where they started each session with a prayer led by a different board member.

Lisa asked me if she could lead one of the prayer sessions. I said I didn’t think it was appropriate for her to do so because of our role facilitating the retreat.

After I said “no” the look in her eyes was like I had stepped on her newborn kitten.

When our work was done after two days, we stayed overnight for the morning worship service. I got up at 5:30 a.m. and went looking for board member Bishop Dr. Gerard Mpango, Anglican Bishop of Western Tanganyika, Tanzania.

I found him and told him what I said to Lisa and how absolutely lousy I felt about it. He told me not to worry…he’d fix it.

About 8:00 AM the Habitat board members and our team gathered for worship.

I looked around for my daughter and couldn’t find her. Then out from a parlor came Bishop Gerard with Lisa.

Printed worship bulletins had been distributed for each of us.

Bishop Gerard told us to take a pencil and scratch out where it said Bishop and write Lisa next to it. He then joined the rest of us and had Lisa lead the service.

I went from the valley of disgust with myself to the mountaintop of pride in my daughter Lisa as she did such a beautiful job leading our service that Sunday morning.

Bishop Gerard turned over leading a worship service to a 19-year-old college freshman for leaders of an organization of such renown as Habitat for Humanity.

He taught me an unforgettable form of leadership. There is a time for a leader to “turn over a position ” as well as “there is a time you can or should get off the stage.”

It seems so simple an act to write about today; however, at the time Bishop Gerard’s humble act was a surprise which spoke loudly to all.

Last Monday Lisa and her husband Mike presented this world with twin daughters. Mother and daughters are doing well.

I am proud to share with you my newest grandchildren:  Emmalin Grace and Hannah Marie Ilyankoff


3 Responses to True Leaders Know When To Lead…And When To Follow

  1. Kym Yahn May 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Congratulations grandpa, they are so beautiful! And a beautiful story as well…

    Regards~ Kym

  2. Debbie Mrkvicka May 24, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Jerry and the McNellis family!

    What beautiful girls! An inspiring story as well.

    I’m reading “The Steward Leader,” and I’ve just recently read a passage that discusses how steward leaders help shape culture, but don’t need to control it! Your story shares a grace-based moment and Lisa’s opportunity to lead the worship – priceless!

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. You made my day!


  3. Carrie May 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Congratulations to ALL the McNellis’! Thanks for sharing that story about Lisa! The babes are beautiful and your whole family is BLESSED! Carrie

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