The Kind of Leader Worth Waiting For



Imagine standing in a circle with a few men you barely know, and you’re given these instructions: “When you know you’re not the leader, sit down.”

What would you do?

A while back I was with a gathering of men discussing how we could develop more — and better — leaders of small groups. We were disappointed with the passivity we saw in ourselves and others. Basically, no one wanted to stand out or step up, so the small groups we were a part of were floundering.

Finally, one man offered an observation: “None of us want to lead because we think someone else should do it. But we are — I am — the leader I’ve been waiting for.”

I am the leader I’ve been waiting for. When I get passive about leadership, it is probably a good thing to jump in and make a difference, and stop waiting around for someone else to do it. That call to action is worth paying attention to.

But there’s a deeper truth in that sentence that’s messing with me.

I am the leader I’ve been waiting for. I believe we are all unconsciously always hoping for the ideal: Ideal role models, ideal situations, ideal partners to make our hopes and dreams about life come true:

  • We go to work, and we want the ideal boss.
  • We go to church, and we want the ideal pastor.
  • We get married, and we want our wives to be the ideal woman.
  • We get involved in a ministry such as The Crucible Project, and we want the organization and its leaders to never let us down.

Then reality hits. The persons and situations that we actually experience turn out not to be enough. So what I want most, I’m still waiting for:

  • My boss takes credit for something I did — guess I need to find a new job.
  • My pastor says something that I don’t like — guess I need to find a new church.
  • My wife doesn’t worship me and sometimes points out my flaws — guess I should spend more time with that new girl on my team who really seems to appreciate me.
  • A brother in The Crucible Project breaks confidentiality, and a leader on a retreat doesn’t notice my sacrificial service like I wish he would — so much for those hypocrites who claim they’re all about truth and grace.

When I was right out of college heading toward seminary, I told a pastor friend that I was looking for someone to mentor me. I wanted a leader who would show me the way to do ministry, marriage, mission — basically all of life. The pastor wisely cautioned me: No such person exists. He suggested that the best I’m going to get is one person here who shows me something, and another person there who shows me something else.

Embarrassed, I backpedaled. I assured him I really didn’t hope I could find such a hero.

I lied.

Truth is, I’ve spent my whole adult life looking for ideal figures. I’ve wanted Christian leaders to be bigger than life. I’ve wanted the Bible to be unambiguous and have all the answers to the tough questions that keep me up at night. I’ve wanted my therapist to just tell me what to do so I wouldn’t be so frustrated. I’ve wanted my wife to be in awe of me like the doting women in “the most interesting man in the world” commercials.

But .. I am the leader I’ve been waiting for. I am the one who can best give me an “attaboy” when I do a good job at work. I am the one responsible to shepherd my soul. I am the one to be the ideal dad and the ideal mom that the little boy in me needs — not my therapist, not my friends, and definitely not my wife.

And here’s what boggles my mind. I really am the best leader I know for me. I’m not the leader somebody else needs. I’m not the best leader compared to other leaders in my church, or among the dads I’ve seen, or among other husbands. Most everybody I know is better than I am at so many other things. It’s just that when it comes to my life and everything worthy I hope to accomplish… I am the leader I’ve been waiting for.


– By Judson Poling

Judson met Greg Huston (The Crucible Project’s founder) in 2002 and staffed his first initial weekend the following spring. Judson is a founding board member of The Crucible Project and co-developer of The Crucible Project’s four second-level weekends. He also served on staff of Willow Creek Community Church for 29 years. Judson is now a best-selling author and President of Cambia Resources, LLC, doing consulting, coaching and freelance writing.


Photo Credit: SGT Pablo Pierda (U.S. Army Photography Contest)