Leading from who YOU are

by  Chery Gegelman  |  Self Leadership

Last week, I received this message from Erin Schreyer:

~Steve Jobs~ Born out of wedlock ~ Given up for adoption at birth~ ~ Dropped out of college ~ Then changed the world~ What’s your excuse? ~

Instantly inspired I shared it with friends.  Their responses made me think about how often we put limits on ourselves based on our history, the title we have, the mistakes we’ve made, or our present circumstances.

They also highlighted the need that each of us has to be reminded that we don’t have be a public figure to make a difference.   Seemingly ordinary people in ordinary positions are impacting our world right now.

And YOU can be one of them!

Meet Madeline:  A tiny great-grandmother with a love for people and a gift for encouragement.  For years, she was a stay-at home mom and a full-time care-giver for her own mother.   During all of that time her deepest desire was to do more for her Heavenly Father and for the people in her community.  Shortly after her mother passed away, her husband lost his short-term memory and needed much more of her time and focus.  Once again limiting her ability to do something for others outside of her home.

Madeline had options:

  1. She could have acted like a victim and been bitter or angry.
  2. And she could have given up on her dream.

Instead she willingly and patiently chose to be there for the love of her life and found a way to do something for others from home.  During the months that followed, she made it her personal mission to call every family in our church, to tell them she loved them, that she was praying for them and to ask if there was anything specific she could pray for.

Many months later her beloved husband passed away and as she began the grieving process she quickly realized that there were many women were walking a similar path.  Within two weeks she began inviting those women and their friends to a monthly event that is intentionally filled with fun, fellowship and inspiration.

Several years have passed since her Care & Share Group began and as each year passes the group grows.  Today Madeline is 87 and although she has had some of her own health struggles she continues to connect with women that are sometimes forgotten and often alone; offering friendship, encouragement and hope.

She would tell you that her contributions have been small and insignificant.  Those of us that know her would tell you that she consistently finds a way to meet needs that are not being met and that she has breathed love and grace into the lives of everyone that knows her.

She reminds me of  a quote from Viktor Frankl,Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be  repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” 

YOUR Leadership does not hinge on:

  • What your history is.
  • What your title is.
  • Where you are.
  • Or how old you are.

Leadership is simply sharing who you are, where you are, in spite of what life hands you.  …What are you doing to lead from who YOU are?


Special thanks to Tristan Bishop, Mike HenryErin Schreyer for thoughts that inspired this post and to Madeline Waiser for giving us a vision of what we hope to become.

The Lead Change Group a non-profit leadership development community promoting character-based leadership. Do you want to be a better leader?  Don’t just sit there, leaders act!  LinkedIn Group, Facebook, Twitter, Website.

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About The Author

Articles By chery-gegelman
Chery Gegelman was once a frustrated visionary that learned to lead extensive system-wide changes from the middle. Today she is The Founder of Giana Consulting, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two books. Her passion is bringing help and understanding to people and organizations that are leading through change to growth.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Erin Schreyer  |  17 Oct 2011  |  Reply


You’re so sweet and thoughtful to even mention me! I, too, was inspired by that post – and thank goodness for Facebook for proliferating that message (who says social media doesn’t have benefits?!?!)

Your message is such an important one, because leadership must start with us. We each are needed, and we each matter in order to make the difference we were created to make.

Thank you for the encouragement to start the week off truly leading. Let’s not let the week take us; instead, let’s lead through it!!


Chery Gegelman  |  17 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Erin, Thank you for your leadership and your comments!

The visual of the chest being opened and the treasure radiating from inside makes me think of all the people that have strengths that are locked within. And of those that share their gifts, but don’t realize the difference they make in the lives of those they touch.

Leaders… What are you doing to discover, unlock, release and celebrate the gifts inside of those you meet?

Tristan Bishop  |  17 Oct 2011  |  Reply

I love this, Chery!

Thanks for painting a beautiful portrait of Madeline’s life, as an example for us all. It’s very inspiring to know that, no matter how much has gone on or gone wrong, there is always more we can do and become.


Chery Gegelman  |  17 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Tristan thank you for leading from who YOU are. You have a gift for encouragement that resonates with so many!

I agree that the beautiful thing about Madeline’s example is that life circumstances and age don’t matter, we ALL have something of great value to share with others…

Denise Barreto  |  17 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Love this and will be spreading it with my tribe.

Further, I’ll add that you lead BECAUSE of who you are. All that happens to us build us to do one of two things – push on or give up. Every day that you don’t give up – you are doing it. And then there are some of us who push to extraordinary feats because of the pain of our journey! Pain has never been wasted on me. I am thisclose to doing my life’s work because of a painful year in 2008 and I wouldn’t change it. Anyone that I can help but sharing my experiences remind me of a saying I read during my rough time – the tears you cry are watering seeds of the plant that will give hope to someone else in the future.

Thanks again!

Chery Gegelman  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Denise, Thank you for your comments.

I love that you referenced a difficult time in your life and how the lessons you learned are moving you closer to your dream.

A WWII Prison Camp Survivor shared this wisdom with my Grandfather, “You can’t have an omelet without first breaking the eggs.” …The lesson for me is that brokenness is always a catalyst for something new and something whole.

Have a wonderful day!


Susan Mazza  |  17 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful and inspiring story Chery..

Chery Gegelman  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Susan – Thank you for your comments! Madeline is an AMAZING woman!

Deborah Costello  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

I love this message and want it trumpeted from every hilltop. What we do matters. We each can make a difference in someone’s life, today, tomorrow, and every day. Nothing matters but your own will. Thank you for sharing this!

Chery Gegelman  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Thank you Deborah!

I was just thinking that the way this resonated with you, speaks loudly of your passion and commitment to discover and unleash the strengths of your students. They are very blessed to have you!

Page Cole  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Wow… Blew me away… Thanks Chery, I’ve never been slapped up beside my head so sweetly in my entire life! You & Madeline have reminded the rest of us what true servant leadership is. More than that, you’ve inspired us, & I believe the fruit of Thayer inspiration will be spectacular!

Page Cole  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

That,not Thayer… ;-)

Chery Gegelman  |  19 Oct 2011  | 

Page – Thank you for your comments. “Slapped sweetly” made me laugh, then smile – as thought of Madeline and tried to imagine that action!

I looked up the meaning of her name this morning and found “strong tower” – In spite of her small stature, it fits. …She continues to offer strength and vision to every life she touches.

Chad Balthrop  |  19 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Hey Chery,

Great post! I turn 40 this year…it’s nice to be reminded that just because I’ll never be a 21 year old $40 billion Silicon Valley Wonder that my my opportunities for effective leadership haven’t passed me by! Great reminder and great post!

Chery Gegelman  |  19 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Chad – Thank you for your comments. I relate! The older I get the more I appreciate examples of people that are retiring and living lives of purpose.

Yesterday I visited with a man that just retired as a Dean from a Community College, a position that he loved. Almost immediately he went on an overseas mission trip. His heart was over-flowing with thankfulness and joy as he stories and lessons from that trip. Sensing that this transition time for him is bitter-sweet, it was inspiring to see him find another way to share his gifts with others.

Sonja Harrington  |  19 Oct 2011  |  Reply

That was a beautiful description of Madelyn, Chery! What a great example of her wisdom and contentment and mission within her circumstances! Love it! Thankyou for sharing your observations of her wonderful lead role!

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