There is a well-known poem that has traveled the world over touting its message of Christian encouragement for those who feel they are walking through the tough moments of this life alone. While its authorship has been widely questioned, with dozens of people laying claim to its origination, some form of this message of hope has consistently blessed the Bibles and mantles and gifts of friends and family throughout the 1900s. They may never confirm who the real author was of this beloved poem, but the impact of this simple story about footprints is well-proven.
Never heard of it? That’s okay. The summarized version is someone had a dream they were walking with God on a beach and noticed that two sets of footprints turned into one. They mistakenly believed they had been left alone. God gently reminded this hurting soul that the moments when only one set of footprints was seen were the moments when God was carrying them through the challenging times. This beautiful sentimental set of words used the imagery of the footprints in the sand to keep our eyes fixed on the hope that we are not fighting the hard times alone.
Do you know who feels pretty alone sometimes? Leaders.
Even if you are a leader who has completely mastered the humility, boundaries, and communication skills it takes to lead well, you still often find yourself landing in the land of in-between. The dichotomy of the demands of leadership can bring even the strongest to their weakest point. You have to hold yourself at a distance but stay involved. Keep it light but keep up your guard. Be available and flexible but have boundaries and firm rules. Be understanding but not too understanding. And on and on and on. The walk down this beach never ends. It doesn’t take long to feel like you are walking it all alone with the waves crashing around your feet, erasing and changing the landscape faster than you can leave a mark upon it.
The strains and pressures on any leader, no matter how strong, are extreme. Part of that extreme includes extremely neglected conversations. Conversations need to be available to leaders where they can talk about the exhaustion, the frustration, and the emotional gravity leading others involves. But more often than not, these conversations are just as I described, neglected and unavailable. This is why my next leadership tool for you takes us back to the footprints. Every leader must be able to see footprints that are not their own.
Whether it is a mentor that walked before you, leaving you a place to step into successful relationships and teams or a calming voice that walks beside you, remaining available for those tough vent sessions in which you can say a lot of things you probably don’t mean, you must seek the footprints of another. There will be times when the weight of leadership is more than you can handle alone.
Yes, there will be times when the footprints you think are yours are actually the good Lord carrying you through something difficult, but I would also suggest the sand can handle a few more sets as well. God is right, you are not alone, and He put wise counsel in your path to prove it. As a leader, you will need another set of footprints to make it through. Let God carry you, but also let those who love you walk beside you. Carried or not don’t walk this beach alone. I am sure finding others you can trust is a difficult task, but don’t spend any more time waiting for more proof that you should try to find them. Put some more footprints in that sand.