I recently realized that if I count my very first leadership role, as the vice president of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) of Pacoima, I have been in various positions of leadership for almost 40 years! OMG! Am I that doggone old? Evidently.

So what do I have to show for all of these years of experience?

Well, for one thing I have learned that “being in charge” is glamorous but “being a leader” is hard; es muy dificil.

Over the years I have seen a lot of people clamor to be in charge of a team or a work group only to discover through the process, if the team or work group is lucky, that being in leadership is different than being in charge. That’s when they begin to make adjustments and everyone wins.

If the team or work group is unlucky, the person “in charge” never learns the difference between being in charge and being a leader and the team suffers the consequences. This is a no-win situation.

Back to my first leadership role: I can tell you that at first I was excited to be in charge as the vice president of MYF Pacoima. But then, I realized being a leader was altogether different and my excitement disappeared faster than my money during a Christmas season shopping spree.

So, what is the difference between the two? Being in charge is about me; being a leader is about others.

When I’m in charge, I get the credit; when I am the leader others get the credit.

When I’m in charge, others take the blame; when I am the leader I take the blame.

When I’m in charge, I fulfill my heart’s desire; when I am the leader my heart’s desire is that others are fulfilled.

When I’m in charge, I am front and center; when I am the leader I celebrate others.

When I’m in charge, I get to tell others what to do; when I am the leader I get input from others about what I/we should do.

When I’m in charge, I am always right; when I am a leader others may not always be right but they are never wrong.

When I’m in charge, I never make a mistake; when I am a leader, I fess up when I mess up.

When I’m in charge, I expect others to be loyal to me; when I am a leader I esteem others more highly than I esteem myself.

Being in charge may be glamorous, but wouldn’t we rather be leaders?


Greg Wallace is the Chief Operating Officer for HRock Church in Pasadena, Calif. He loves teaching and helping others pursue their life’s passion. He is passionate about developing leaders, building organizations and helping people and groups thrive in the midst of change.

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