I have struggled in the past, feeling inadequate about my lack of resume-friendly leadership experience.

My leadership experiences — up until recently — all of the volunteer variety: I helped my husband start and lead a church. I led small groups of women in Bible studies. I organized and led (with others) a homeschool learning co-op. I served as our condo association’s president for several terms.

A couple of years ago, while teaching leadership online, I drove past our local Wendy’s restaurant. The sign outside announced openings for managerial staff. In the time it took me to drive past, I had this thought: Maybe I should apply. Maybe I need to throw myself into the trenches of “real” leadership to build my credibility and ability to lead others.

Photo credit Briles Takes Pictures…

I taught about leadership, wrote about leadership, and kept hidden this nagging thought that since I hadn’t held a paid position of leadership, I lacked credibility somehow as a leader. I compared myself to others with more impressive resumes and titles.

This contradiction: My strongly held conviction that we can each choose to lead. That leading is a choice we make, every day. That we have the power to make a difference, wherever we are, and that choosing to make a difference makes us leaders.

And, a nagging thought that I needed a position of leadership to be believed in as a leader. That title, position, and pay grade mattered more than a choice to lead.

It was all crazy-making.

As I am stepping up to lead myself — and now my growing team — I am, essentially, employing the same skills and practices I did as a volunteer leader.

The stakes seem a bit higher and the responsibility weightier. I guess I could have a title (if I wanted one; right now I call myself “business owner”). I get a paycheck (although I have to write myself a check.)

And those two facts — a title and getting paid to lead others — do not make me a leader.

It is really all about the choices.

I choose to lead. I choose to make a difference.

It’s hard work.

I am a leader.

Tell me something! How are you choosing to lead? What makes you a leader?