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  • Writer's pictureJohn Kim

Leadership Starts With Identity

Matthew 3:17 And a voice from heaven said “this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Yesterday I was invited to guest lecture at Singapore Management University about my leadership journey. I thought I’d share a (paraphrased) snippet here today. “If you want people to follow, you have to know where you’re leading them. And if you want to know where you’re going, you have to know who you are and what you stand for. For me, leadership starts from identity. I got bullied as a kid because I was a minority, so when I realized as a teenager that I could get respect by rebelling, I went all-in on that strategy. It started a decade of seeking affirmation from the world and throwing away my identity. I believed that my parents, my culture, and my faith were the reasons I got abused, so I wanted nothing to do with any of them. Instead, I started shoplifting, partying, and dealing drugs. I got relatively good at being liked and accepted by people in my circles, but I found as that happened that I felt more and more empty inside. At the end of this wandering decade, I found myself as a touring musician looking out at the crowd when I heard a booming voice say ‘Come Home.’ I felt pretty homeless living out of hotel rooms but eventually, I realized that home in this context was not a physical place, but a state of mind. I realized I needed to get in touch with my roots, those elements that I had rejected for so long… my parents, my culture, and my faith. So I moved to Korea, learned the language and culture, and stayed with my parents. They were gracious enough to accept me after this rebellious era. But even more amazing was the fact that my Father in heaven accepted me back. It’s been a journey, but I can tell you at this point that I’m so secure in knowing who I am… that I’m loved by God and I have all the affirmation that I need. Knowing where I’m going is a natural outflow of that, and even people who don’t believe what I believe want to follow.” Before Jesus started his public ministry, before he spoke to any crowds, even before he called his disciples, God the Father affirmed his identity. “This is my son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.” Leadership starts with identity. Lord, thank you for affirming my identity. I am totally accepted by the one person who really matters, and everything else is an outflow of that fact. I love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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