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In It To Win It

I usually say the right thing. Most of the time I do the right thing. I act like I want us all to win. But beneath my on-the-surface offering, there are many times when my motives are still all about me. ALL about me. And me winning.

Karen Buchanan peels back my facade with her insightful challenge on competition. Ugh. But it’s sooo worth the read!


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In It to Win It

By Karen Buchanan

In the midst of redesigning a leadership program at the university where I teach, I am noticing leadership styles all around me—at work, church and in my personal life. I’ve also reflected on my own growth as a leader. In these reflections, one distinctive style I’ve noticed is an “in it to win it” style. Certainly the “win it” piece indicates that someone embracing this style is competitive in nature. Ultimately, however, “in it to win it” is about controlling someone or something to attain a goal. It is easy to fool myself into thinking that this approach is for the benefit of others. Not so. The roots of this style are selfish.

In thinking back to my earlier years of leadership, I can identify times where I drove my agenda hard because I was focused solely on my own goals. On me winning.

In reflecting on my journey raising children, I see similar temptations at work in parenting. I can recall struggling with manipulating people or situations so that my kids could “win.” Not pretty.

Sadly, I must admit that there have been one or two times when I have let a friendship deteriorate because it felt like I was always on her schedule or her agenda. It can be difficult to grow a friendship when one or both of us tend to be striving to meet our own needs, rather than being committed to looking out for each other.

As I search God’s Word, I’m challenged to embrace a very different style of leadership—one rooted in humility and a practice of looking out for others:

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. Philippians 2:4-6

Henri Nouwen, in his book, In the Name of Jesus, talks about the temptation that we each face regarding power in our lives - political, moral, professional, personal, and spiritual power. Nouwen challenges me when he claims that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love, “It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.”

“In it to win it” is the easier road. But it’s a lonely road because ultimately, it’s a selfish path. Love is the way of the cross and the journey that I dearly want to travel.

Karen Buchanan is a professor of education at George Fox University. She is a teacher, a wife and mother, a daughter and sister, and a woman on a mission to become more like her Maker. You can follow her leadership musings at

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