Deputy Editor Azia Wiggins expresses her thoughts on being a leader and the necessity of difficulty along the journey. “In the trenches is where leaders can show themselves approved simply because you didn’t shy away from the fight. That fight, that uncomfortability as you grow to deal with devils on new levels, is the foundation of excellence,” she writes. Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Leadership Is Filled With Glorious Difficulty, and Rightfully So.

“All Efforts of Worth and Excellence Are Difficult,” reads the title of my favorite devotional for today.

Such a fitting title to sum up the journey that innovators, pioneers and overall leaders have to trek daily. One of the most challenging things about being a leader is the moments when you have to stand first and stand alone while the community you serve watches. People decide to follow leaders they can trust; who advocate for their self-interests while maintaining character and integrity with a servant’s heart. We follow those who are experienced, exposed, and resourceful and can meet needs with diplomacy, curating trust and security. But those who follow leaders don’t do it blindly. The risk of aligning with the wrong leader can lead to personal detriment, so rolling critiques are to be expected. 

Leaders are constantly graded on their motives, self-interests, history, failures and highlights. We expect those with greater responsibility to be equipped to handle and stand up to adversity; judge, but only judge righteously; be well-rounded and relatable, but also remain responsible and safe; have the “answers,” but remain humble. Show the real you, but understand that as a leader everyone is always watching, so cover your cracks; your personal business is not everyone’s business. Have some couth, exemplify some self-respect, take ownership of your decision to be a leader, and learn to dance appropriately with the pros and cons of public life.

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And the reality is, leaders sign up for this. But how do they revive? How should they assess? And why is it always so hard? The trials and tribulations that come with leadership territory are hardset simply because leaders are the ones standing in the gap for the people. Leaders position themselves to navigate conflict among their flock: listening actively, being present while building relationships, problem solving, recognizing when pride and ego create internal walls while growing, learning, failing, and then starting over again and again.

While in the trenches of leadership, we have to remember why we stood up. We have to remember that narrow is the gate for a reason. The heart of a leader who sincerely centers collective power, community, building bridges, service and love must be tried in the fire of difficulty and adversity. In the trenches is where leaders can show themselves approved simply because you didn’t shy away from the fight. That fight, that uncomfortability as you grow to deal with devils on new levels, is the foundation of excellence. Whether you’re a leader in your career, at your home-church or place of worship, in your community, among your friends, even in the varying levels of family, being stirred up and unsure is the meat of the matter. Leaders don’t shy away from the muck; they dive in head-first. Those same leaders become legends who live to tell the story of how they overcame. 

I’m writing all of this to first, encourage myself and apply the wise words of my daily devotional to how I move throughout today. Secondly, I want to encourage you to be OK with the difficulty that comes with adapting to daily changes and challenges you face as the leader of your own soul. Conflict is an integral part of the process. There’s no fast-forward button, and we can’t skip ahead.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting Mississippi Free Press leaders as we agitate, grow transparently, and build foundations for leaders to come. It’s your donations and support that rightly position us.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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