How does a shy 12-year-old girl from Providence, Rhode Island, find herself the Assistant Lead Pastor of a thriving and growing church, a full professor of politics, the Chair of the Division of Politics, History and International Studies and the Director of the Rich Foundation Urban Leadership Program at Oglethorpe University? If your name is Dr. Kendra Momon, it all began with engagement.
Dr. Momon was an introverted little girl attending summer camp, often eating lunch alone. About two weeks into camp, another little girl named Jameela invited Dr. Momon to eat lunch with her and her sister. This invitation was a pivotal moment in young Kendra’s life. In fact, in her words, “It was a game changer.” As an introvert, she never initiated relationships. However, Jameela and her sister invited her into their space. The lunch led to an invitation to church. It was at Jameela’s church that Kendra was first tapped for a leadership role.
On the way home one Sunday, the pastor told Kendra that she saw something in her and asked her to pray about stepping in to the position of President of the Youth Department. Kendra was shocked and surprised at the invitation, but she also had an understanding that there were things that needed to be done. Taking the position, Kendra felt confident trepidation. She went to work, got the job done and saw immediate results.
Years later, as a college student, Kendra was encouraged by her professors, deans, college vice presidents and even the college president to take on leadership opportunities and internships. Each of these people saw things in her that she didn’t see in herself. Fast forward to today and we see that leadership is an integral part of who Dr. Kendra Momon is.
It’s interesting to note that Dr. Momon describes herself as a reluctant leader. Because of her natural personality, she is not always comfortable at the forefront. As an introvert, she can be slow to lead, observing and being thoughtful before taking action. However, she feels an undeniable conviction from the Holy Spirit that she has been anointed and appointed to lead. She cannot deny the compulsion that God has put inside her.
If you view yourself as a reluctant leader, Dr. Momon recommends that you start with the small, easy win: “Start slow. Build and gain trust and expand from there.” If you are looking to delve into leadership but are unsure of where to start, begin to lead wherever you are. For example, you don’t have to be a small group leader to lead within your small group. Find ways to help out—find areas of ministry, such as set up, that you can take on. “If you feel like you’ve been called to lead but you’re not 100% sure if you can or don’t know how you can lead, reach out to someone,” encourages Dr. Momon.
Dr. Momon knows the importance of reaching out just as she knows the importance of reaching back. She has been described as a leader who will go the extra mile so that others can reach their full potential. Whether she is in the marketplace or the pulpit, Dr. Momon is passionate about engaging those around her and encouraging their leadership potential. In fact, she doesn’t lead with her spirituality but rather by connecting with individuals. Spend time around Dr. Momon and she will learn your story. She will connect with you. If you are open to her, she will learn who you are—your passions, your future hopes and dreams. She will help you to unearth your potential.
As John Maxwell says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When it comes to leadership and interactions in the marketplace, Dr. Momon offers this remix: “People don’t care how spiritual you are. They want to know how much you put your hands and your heart to the job; to love on them, to care for them, to not judge them.”
It is also important to model healthy leadership attributes. Dr. Momon believes the top five healthy leadership attributes are humility, teachability, generosity, being willing to begin again, and authenticity.
To be a healthy leader, you have to know yourself. You have to know your highs and your lows—what is great about yourself as well as your challenges.
When asked to sum up the importance of leadership and engagement, Dr. Momon offered this thought: “Leadership is to engagement what water is to good health. It’s vital.”
Truer words have never been spoken. The importance of both reaching up and reaching back are undeniable. As Dr. Momon said, “Because Jameela engaged me—because she saw something in me—I am on leadership platforms today. I am here because another twelve-year-old discipled me, engaged me, evangelized me, and let me in.”