I Used To Be Important

People who described me as a really good friend when I was the CEO of a large (by evangelical standards) organisation have not spoken to me since I stepped away from the role.

As many of you know, I was the CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK for a few years. Having worked with Wycliffe for most of my adult life it was a massive privilege and honour to be asked to take on that role. To be honest, it wasn’t a job that I particularly wanted to do, nor do I think that I was very good at it. That being said, I also believe that in God’s providence I was the right person for the job at the time. Despite my many failings (which people were kind enough to regularly point out), I was able to accomplish some things which were essential for the long term health of the organisation, which an outsider would have struggled with.

Although I wasn’t particularly keen on doing the job and was frankly relieved when I stepped down, I was surprised at the impact that leaving the role had on me. The loss of status was horrible.

People who described me as a really good friend when I was the CEO of a large (by evangelical standards) organisation have not spoken to me since I stepped away from the role. In one way, it’s quite nice not having to deal with hundreds of emails a day, but it is undeniable that being at the heart of so much communication and being “in the know” gives you a warm glow. The invitations to attend and speak at conferences in different parts of the world have more or less dried up. People wanted to hear from the CEO of Wycliffe, they are much less interested in what some niche blogger has to say.

I know these things shouldn’t matter to me; they are ephemeral, unimportant and unrelated to my true identity in Christ. But they do matter. There are times when I really struggle with not being in leadership, with the loss of significance, with not being important anymore.

I found myself musing on these things when reflecting on the latest revelations of leaders falling from grace in the evangelical and broader Christian world.

Leadership is insidious and it is dangerous. I didn’t realise how important my role, influence and title were to me until I stepped down. I may not have liked doing the CEO’s job, but I loved being the CEO and all of the attention that came with it. At this distance, I can see that it would have been all too easy to see myself as being more important than I am and to believe that normal rules didn’t apply to me. I can understand why leaders fall and I can see why those responsible for monitoring them allow it to happen.

Dealing with my own feelings of loss of significance makes me realise the importance of praying for those in leadership who face temptations that are different to those faced by the rest of us and which have the capacity for a much wider impact.

10 replies on “I Used To Be Important”

People can be fickle Eddie. I loved working for you. You were humble and you knew how to encourage and get the best out of your teams. You were respected and you were loved, I know that because I was your PA and I got to know the Leadership Team well. I saw how everyone in that team interacted with you and it was pleasant and comfortable. That changed so much when you left. I predicted that I would soon follow you not through my own choice but someone else’s who thought I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have a degree. What a shame that sometimes we are judged for our performance and sometimes incorrectly and unfairly, and not for our hearts.

This is a great, honest post, Eddie. I am quite excited to see some of the stuff you’re involved with later this year.

Thanks for sharing – a great reminder for us all to watch our hearts!

Eddie, you are very important to those who really knows you, and especially to God. I love your humble heart and I always admired you leadership stlye. Rock on, in God’s kingdom! Lead wherever He plants you, all the world needs a good leader like you. And remember not a leaders are at the front.

Eddie, your words really resonate. When I left the director position of the China program after eight years, I got to experience the “hero to zero” phenomena. I was exhausted, felt I had made my contribution, and was very certain that it was time to step out of the role. However, I wrestled with the question, “What else is there I could do that would be as fulfilling, meaningful and as stretching as the position I was leaving?” I could imagine traveling the circuit of town halls, veterans clubs and churches with people yelling out “Play China!” – my one big hit song!

I remember visiting ILC and the receptionist asking, “Who are you?” “I used to be somebody!” It took about a year to regain my equilibrium – going from 200 kph to a feeling of free floating in space. Since then I’ve experienced subsequent meaningful and challenging roles which have been no less fulfilling than what I experienced in China. Now, the next transition is toward “retirement.” The question is, where do I invest the equity I have (knowledge, experience, talents) as I have more discretionary time. Thanks again for your post. I always appreciate your insights.

I was struck by your humility and care for the best for Wycliffe Eddie. You were thoughtful, took soundings and decisive. Having stepped out of a leadership role myself I don’t think of myself as a “Has been”, but a “Once was..”. Many of us in a post-leadership situation find self-leadership the hardest of all. God bless you.

Since returning from mission work overseas, I have experienced similar things. Really good post and honest… well needed and helpful to hear

Thank you for your honest reflections and openness about the whole experience of stepping down from your role at Wycliffe. It was a refreshing and vital read. Much grace for the next steps you take.

Thank you Eddie, I keep reminding myself that it is the CEO of London City Mission that people want to speak to and not the slightly geeky, over enthusiastic fella, Graham, who talks too much (although my Dad and my kids love Graham).
It can work the other way too some times. There are things that I feel almost too weak to attempt as Graham that I feel have the authority to do because I am the chosen representative of a body set apart by the Church of London (185 years ago) to reach the least reached.

Thanks for your honesty. I agree with everything you said.l work for 18 years for the local government. I felt l did a good job.However when new management team came made me look insignificant. I lost job that made me feel my worth.But this drove me into the fellowship of Jesus more.l am more happier now.l pray the Lord will use you more than ever you imagine. Many Blessings

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