Why I Lead

My wife and I are part of a team which helps leads young students in our youth group. Sometimes they’re angelic. Other times you’d think they were possessed.

And yet we return week after week to help teach and lead these students.

Person passed out on couch

Image by HackNY

Over the years I’ve cut back on my TV viewing. We’ve become more intentional with how we spend our time and watch we watch.

This has led us to cut our cable and purchase a Roku2 XS box. One of the cool features is the Roku allows you to subscribe to “channels.” A channel I’ve grown found of has been the TED channel.

This allowed me to watch a talk by the late Coach John Wooden. In it, he shared a poem called Why I Teach.

They Ask Me Why I Teach

They ask me why I teach,
And I reply,
Where could I find more splendid company?
There sits a statesman,
Strong, unbiased, wise,
Another later Webster,
And there a doctor
Whose quick, steady hand
Can mend a bone,
Or stem the lifeblood’s flow.
A builder sits beside him-
Upward rise
The arches of a church he builds, wherein
That minister will speak the word of God,
And lead a stumbling soul to toach the Christ.

And all about
A lesser gathering
Of farmer, merchants, teachers,
Laborers, men
Who work and vote and build
And plan and pray
Into a great tomorrow
And I say,
“I may not see the church,
Or hear the word,
Or eat the food their hands will grow.”
And yet- I may.
And later I may say,
“I knew the lad,
And he was strong,
Or weak, or kind, or proud,
Or bold, or gay.
I knew him once,
But then he was a boy.”
They ask me why I teach, and I reply,
“Where could I find more splendid company?”

*They Ask Me Why I Teach,” by Glennice L. Harmon, in NEA Journal 37, no. 1 (September 1948): 375


They Ask Me Why I Teach got me thinking about the reasons why I lead. I believe the poem lines up with the reasons I help lead our Wednesday night youth services.

There are times after a Wednesday night service I ask why we come back. Feeling like no one is listening or growing. They’re there for their entertainment, nothing else. Or they’re zoned out like the guy in the picture above.

Or so it seems.

Regardless of why the students come to our youth group, I know Pam and I have a calling on our lives to help raise up the next generation. To teach them the proper ways to behave. The knowledge they need to succeed. And skills they will take with them the rest of their lives.


Because they’re not just young students. They’re like the students in the poem.

We lead them because they have value. They’re the next generation of doctors, lawyers, world changers.

They may not know it. We may not see it. But this is the truth.

Each and every one of the students will make an impact on the world.

Our responsibility as leaders is to give these students the positive reinforcement and guidance as they leave the shelter of their parents and grow into healthy adults.

What About You?

You may not be leading young students like Pam and I. You are leading someone who will make a difference in the world. And you have the opportunity to pour as much of yourself into them as you can.

Give willingly of yourself to those you’re leading. Make yourself available to guide them. Let them know you’re there because you care.

Your leadership over your team may not last long, this doesn’t mean your touch won’t have a lasting affect.

Question: So, why are you leading? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • DS

    I believe that there is more to our lives that what is offered in most TV, radio, print, and digital sources.  We have uniqueness about ourselves, and talents.  We’re special.  If we can put out of our minds all of the negative attention long enough, we can catch a glimpse of real life, and our real potential.  That’s why I lead – we have been created for more.

    • You’re right DS. There’s much more to life than what we’ve been presented with. 

      That’s a great reason to lead. How are you showing others they’ve been created for more?

      • DS

        I use it when I teach or preach at church. I use it when I speak at community organizations. I’m trying to do it through blogging, and blog comments. I use it at work with coworkers who may feel unfulfilled. I’m looking for more opportunities to share my sentiment.

  • What is the difference between those who ‘do’ and those who ‘teach’? Nothing. Give value freely and in love. Joe, I really dig this post man. Thanks for leading.

    • Thanks Stephen. I’m digging that question because in the end, it’s true. Doers are teachers. Always someone watching what you’re doing.

    • We are always teaching something, aren’t we?  Either a positive example or a negative one!

  • I started teaching by default.  I wanted to be a rock and roll star, but gave that up and went to college when I was 30.  I wanted to be a dee-jay, but found there was little financial future there for me.  So I got my M.A. and became a community college teacher.  I’ve learned to love my career choice, but I’m still growing.  I’m learning to incorporate my understanding of sharing ideas and concepts into my writing in way that I can reach more people with stronger messages of personal growth.  

    • Dan, thanks for sharing your story. It’s interesting how we can get into a career or field and not necessarily like it. Over time though, we begin to find things we love about it. Keep up the great work.

  • I’m a youth leader at my church for many of these same reasons.  I’m a leader at work, because I want to help people succeed.  I want to show them that leadership can come in a different, more positive package.

    • Awesome Jon. Are you finding the work rewarding?

      • Most day – absolutely, yes!

        • That’s great. It’s always nice to feel you’re doing work that matters and it’s rewarding.

  • As a teacher myself, I get the question: “why do I teach?” all the time. Well, you hit the nail on the head above. I try to make them better citizens as young people, which will hopefully turn them into better citizens as adults. It’s frustrating at times, but worth it on the days when the light bulb goes off!

    • Tessa, it’s a valid question to ask ourselves. Makes us discover our motives and if we’re doing it for the right reasons. Glad you’re seeing the light bulb going off!

  • I think those reasons have changed. I used to for how it would benefit me. Now I am more interested in how it benefits others. Which actually benefits me.

    • Larry, it sure changes things when the reasons change. Glad you’re experiencing the benefits of helping others and seeing the reward yourself. 

  • Michelle

    I found this blog via Catalystspace.com. I will have to look into that TV box, sounds really cool, and I especially love watching & learning from TED talks. 

    I think the one beautiful thing that life teaches us is to to take advantage of our lives. And you said it best with:  “We lead them because they have value… They may not know it. We may not see it. But this is the truth.“ 

    We as individuals (whether leaders specifically or not) must look at ourselves and take ownership and responsibility for our lives, and to give it our best shot, that we are worthy of accomplishing and contributing so much to others. 

    I’m not a “leader” but I love sharing, inspiring and empowering others. I’ve gone through a heartbreaking life stragedy and value my life, those that come into my life and what time I have left. And I think that attitude and respect for ourself is contagious to all. Many blessings and enjoy today!  http://onmyownblog.com/

    • Welcome Michelle! Glad you were able to find my site today. The Roku box is an amazing device. There’s plenty of viewing options and many, many channels to learn from. It’s not all about entertainment.

      Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself. While you might not consider yourself a leader, I bet you’re more of one than you think you are. Especially if you are sharing, inspiring  and empowering others. Isn’t that the basics of leadership?

  • First let me say I love my Roku! I’ve had it for over a year and it’s awesome!

    second, I think of the people who invested in me when I was a youth. They did it so selflessly. I want to be like that. I’m not sure if they realized the impact they were making or simply trusting in God…but they served and I’m  glad they did.

    Great post!

    This part is my fav, “Give willingly of yourself to those you’re leading. Make yourself
    available to guide them. Let them know you’re there because you care.”


    • Nice TC! It’s amazing how many people are using Roku, Apple TV, and other similar devices. Cable must be shaking in their boots.

      As long as you’re serving and giving to those that need your guidance, you’re being like those who impacted your life growing up. You’re just continuing the cycle.

      • I think devices like Roku are the future. One thing I really dislike about Cable is having to purchase so many channels I NEVER watch! Why waste my money?

        I sure try to carry on the labor. God bless.

  • Great thoughts Joe. I feel called to lead because too many people won’t step up! I have a message to spread and I’m going to scream it from the rooftops! 

    I enjoy Ted Talk as well 🙂

    • Thanks my friend! That’s a great reason to step up and lead. Sometimes others are scared and unwilling. You have the choice to step up yourself. So glad to see you’re doing it and crushing it.

  • We also got rid of the cable connection about 8 years and ago and we’d never go back.  I lead because God has given me opportunity, grace, knowledge and ability. It would be arrogant and selfish for me not to serve those I lead through preaching and teaching of God’s Word. 

    • Wow! That’s long before many of the alternative options started to show up. Did you guys miss cable when you first cut the cord?

      I love the way you put why you lead Caleb. The thought of arrogance and selfishness being a reason to lead/serve is interesting but true when you think about it.

      • Now that I think about it, it was probably 10 or 11 years ago, so you’re right we didn’t have all those other technologies back then. I can’t say we really missed it that much. Sometimes I would have liked to watch a football game but I could always do that at a friends house and after not having TV for a few months I pretty much lost interest in professional sports and instead just enjoyed taking part in sports personally.

  • I had a few people in my life who were father figures, mentors, and spiritual advisers and I know I would not be where I am today without their help/wisdom. My past has given me a passion to help others. At first I would do anything and help anyone but now I’m trying to focus specifically in helping others increase their leadership ability. Great poem and post Joe!

    • Awesome Dan. Having mentors and father figures can help in our growth, especially when they’re good ones.

      There’s nothing wrong with buckling down and focusing on specific people. It’s actually a great plan. You’ll work in your strength area and give more benefit to the ones who need your attention.

      • I totally agree, my father was disconnected more of my life and he died when I was 18 years old. So I have learned the power and value of a spiritual father figure and the impact it has.

  • I have seen what effective career coaching can do for individuals struggling with career transition – and I am leading in that area to serve others.  Put another way, I lead because it is an outlet to serve others – and I believe that serving others glorifies God and that is the basis for everything.  I got way more theological than I had intended, but hopefully that makes sense!  Also, have a Roku and will have to checkout TED channel (if I can ever get my wife to stop watching 24 on Netflix).

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