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Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, Senior Pastor at the historic Mount Zion Baptist Church, reflects on his journey of embracing his call to become an influential leader in the community.
Leadership is a pivotal pillar in our society, but what makes up a great leader? Are they born with a natural ability or is it taught? Bishop Joseph W. Walker III believes the best leaders are those who carry a natural charisma and are open to acquiring new skills.
“You can give people the technique and train them on leadership skills and strategies and help them, but if they don’t have that charisma, if they don’t have that self-motivating variable that helps them be an example for others and have a level of resilience because leadership is tough business. It’s not for the faint at heart,” he shared.
In this episode of Tell the Story with R.H. Boyd, Emmanuel LeGrair, Community Engagement and Development Coordinator at R.H. Boyd, sits down with Bishop Walker III to discuss his calling to leadership at a young age, a hard lesson he has learned over his career and the power of collaboration.
Aspiring lawyer turned pastor, Bishop Joseph W. Walker III credits his journey to where he is today as a product of lots of prayer, perseverance, and continuous support from his community. Today, he is a speaker, author, entrepreneur, the International Presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship and Senior Pastor of Nashville’s historic Mount Zion Baptist Church.
But it wasn’t until his junior year of high school that Bishop Walker III discovered his gift for leading. As a drum major for two years, he developed the valuable skills of discipline and focus at a young age.
“I began to realize that ‘you’re called to be a leader’ and I believe very strongly that if you say you’re a leader and no one is following you, then you’re just taking a walk. So for me, I knew in the eleventh grade that I had kind of a leadership mantle upon my life and it just continued to grow from there,” he explained.
Years later, he didn’t expect to use his gift to grow a 175 member church into one of the largest organizations in Nashville as a young pastor fresh out of seminary. Once he realized he was called to lead thousands of people, he learned to embrace the call of ministry and focus his efforts on serving God’s people well and impacting the community in a positive way.
“I had to embrace the fact that many are called but few are really the chosen ones.”
On the outside, the life of a leader can seem grand and constantly exciting but when the podium is stripped away, you will be surprised to find out that leadership can be lonely at times. Being an influential leader is a rewarding career but it is often misunderstood and isolating.
In Bishop Walker III’s recent book, Leadership and Loneliness, he touched on the incredible pain point of isolation from the perspective of a leader.
“Everybody has these superhero models and expectations of leadership. [They] put them on pedestals. And all of the sudden, I said ‘enough of it, enough of it.’ Let’s just be transparent. Let’s talk real about it.”
Finding the confidence and courage to tell your story as a leader is a journey. It’s an unscripted process you have to actively participate in if you want to ensure it is told well. But it’s not a journey you have to walk alone.
Bishop Walker III encourages leaders to collaborate by including others in the process of bringing their personal narratives to life. He believes a story is much more powerful when it’s told through a community lens.
“I see things in teams. I think that when we collaborate, we’re able to release the creativity among us, give people a voice among us who could help us move the needle forward. And so when people see the end result, it is not the sum total of ‘Look at what Bishop Walker has done’ but is the sum total of a collaborative effort of people.”