A few months ago, I had the absolute pleasure of introducing you to Dr. Francine Thirus. We discussed the importance of “The First.”
When something hasn’t been done, it is sometimes perceived as “not able to be done.” Those who have the courage to believe they can and DO what no one else has done, give the rest of us permission to dream bigger, strive more, and reach higher.
Dr. Thirus is one such person in my family. She gave me permission to dream bigger, strive more, and reach higher.
Dr. Thirus enlightened us with her 10 success tips published on February 11, 2015, “Dr. Francine Thirus – Ten Tips for Topping the Success Ladder.” If you missed her original article you can access it at: http://drgiasblog.com/?p=1549
Her original article received such a positive response; I thought I’d share the rest of our conversation.
As I reread my interview notes, I noticed tons of golden nuggets that I originally missed. This was such an edifying conversation and interview.
I pray that it blesses you as well!
DR. GIA: What is your personal leadership style?
Part of my getting ready consists of deep preparation, meditation, and prayer. I will put it away and then come back to it. I have found that if I work on something, do a lot of research, and then put it away, I will wake up in the middle of the night with some beautiful ideas.
I am able to explain things in my own words. It becomes my experience.
DR. GIA: It seems, because you are so well prepared, you can be called on with an immediate request and you are able to respond. Your preparation makes you accessible.
Yes, I would agree.
DR. GIA: What ethical issues have you personally faced? How did you make decisions in those situations?
As a teacher, an Assistant State’s Attorney, and as a pastor, there are many expectations regarding ethics. It took me a long time to accept that because I am a friendly person and wondered why I couldn’t give my opinion just like everyone else. I realized people would rely on me as an expert, so I couldn’t say the same thing as others could.
As an attorney, if I gave someone my opinion in a causal conversation, they might act on it. I had to remind people that what I was sharing was my opinion as a friend. Because of my roles as an attorney and a pastor, people might act quicker on what I shared as opposed to someone on the street. Professionals particularly have to be careful with family members.
Again, as an attorney and a pastor, I have to be careful what I say and how I say it.
Another aspect, as a pastor, people come to me with a sense of confidentiality. Thus, I have to respect this and not give out information about them. But, there are some things people tell me that I have to report – criminal things. That’s hard to understand for some people. It’s not easy for me to distinguish what things I have to report. There is a lot more to deciding how to help people because people rely on me. The ethical thing is to be honest, but you don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them mad at you, so there is a lot to think about.
DR. GIA: In my observation, pastors and faith leaders are held to a higher ethical standard. You are not permitted to make a mistake and if you do, the scrutiny from the public is greater. It seems like it would be overwhelming to try and live up to that expectation. Not only at work, but even when you are not working, your actions are always under a microscope.
It seems like there is a weight of high moral expectations all the time, without grace … no mistakes allowed. How do you carry the weight? How do you manage that public expectation?
I include in my self-care for myself support groups, friends, and professional help. We all need to have somewhere to go to get rid of the trash we can accumulate inside.
One thing I say to my congregation is that I never limit God to my intelligence because God is much bigger than anything I could ever think or realize. God continues to help me grow by showing me ways to grow.
DR. GIA: What do your constituents expect of you as a leader?
As a leader my congregation expects me to be informed and to be spiritually in touch with God.
But now, leadership brings about jealousy too. You have to walk that fine line of sharing your gifts and what you know without stepping on someone’s toes and making them jealous. It’s a balance.
DR. GIA: Often times, people expect you to have the answers. But, with your discipline of preparing, you do have a lot of the answers. Even people who depend on you sometimes resent the fact that you [have the answers]?
You have to decide … just because I can give the answer, should I … ?
DR. GIA: What a conflict!
It is a conflict, all the time! When I was going through law school, I had so many people rooting me on. And after I became a lawyer, there were jealous people – I was astonished at the jealousy. It really hurt me. It’s a fine line.
All of that made me get close to God and try to please God. That is a journey in and of itself.
DR. GIA: How do you decide when to respond, and when not to respond?
That has changed over the years. When I was younger I would just proceed full speed ahead and could care less. But now that I’m older, I’m wiser, and I can see the elephant in the room. I have learned, not every hill is mine to climb. It’s not important for me to be “the one.”
Also, I realize that God hasn’t given me anything that he hasn’t given somebody else, and to discern when to speak out and when to just hold back. It’s hard, but I’ve learned patience, and I’ve learned when to keep my mouth closed.
DR. GIA: There probably has to be a lot of forgiveness?
DR. GIA: I can’t imagine someone asking you for support and then resenting the fact they asked you, and you gave it to them.
Yes, there is a lot of forgiveness, a lot of hurt, a lot of pain, and also being able to understand forgiveness.
My understanding of forgiveness has grown since I was younger. I understand that forgiveness is more about me, and helping me, than the other person. If frees me, not the other person.
DR. GIA: This is what I struggle with sometimes with respect to forgiveness. Sometimes I can forgive an offense, but I get stuck when it’s a repeat offender. It’s not about forgiving the past, I feel like I constantly have to forgive the present. How do … do you get exhausted?
Jesus talked about forgiving 70 times. Jesus forgave the person, who is a child of God.—- The act was wrong. We forgive them, because they know not what they do. In my opinion only, that doesn’t mean I forget, it means I ask God for the willingness to continue to forgive them.
DR. GIA: Anything else about forgiveness that you want to tell future leaders?
One of the things I learned about forgiveness is not to personalize it. It’s not all about me.
I have to tell myself that when there is tension between me and another person. The other person may not be thinking about me at all. It’s humbling, and can knock you off your high horse, to realize people don’t really think about you at all. That helps me to move on with my life instead of focusing on them, and thinking “I’m all that.”
People really don’t spend that much time thinking about you.
DR. GIA: What paradigms impacted your career?
My frame of reference was the fact my parents always worked and they were very religious. They allowed for nothing but respect for the Bible, God, a work ethic, and to be honest.
In school, we were always expected to do our best. I think that gave me discipline and taught me how to discipline my life. Even though I didn’t always want to do these things, I had to do them. I had to humble myself, obey, and do them.
A part of any career requires you to obey instructions, obey your boss, or obey the discipline. It is a work ethic – if you were digging a ditch, you make it the best ditch.
DR. GIA: As a leader, how do you handle western cultural expectations of what it means to be a “lady?”
I had to deal with the “-isms” – racisms, genderisms, and all of that stuff; and now that I’m older – ageism.
I thought that if God didn’t want me to have these gifts, then he wouldn’t have given them to me. God gave me these abilities, so I’m supposed to have them. If God wanted me to be different, then he would have done something different with me. So basically, I don’t allow anyone to define for me what God made.
One also have to look out for co-dependency. You cannot look for others’ approval. If we do, then we won’t excel to the potential God has given us. So we have to stop looking to get a pat on the back.
DR. GIA: Is there anything you would like me to know that might help prepare me for future leadership/future leadership challenges?
I like the phrases “be all that you can be” and “we’ve come a long way, baby.”
I like those because they remind me of where we have come from and we are not finished yet – we are still growing, still evolving. We still have all of these challenges out there – those “-isms” but they’re subtler now. You need to be in constant contact with either a religious power or a professional power and group somewhere you can be yourself. At the same time, be encouraging to those who are going through the same things as you. Hear not only their sorrows but be inspired by what they have overcome and how they did it. I would also advise journaling – writing is a big thing. And to hang in there and just keep on trying, never give up. There is always something to learn, there is always a journey.
DR. GIA: Anything else that would be important for the readers to know that I have not asked?
Get to know role models so we can identify with their struggles. Leadership did not just happen, they all went through struggles. And the more we can know their story or hear their story, the more real it is. It’s not only important to have a role model, but to read about role models and to seek out positive people. Intentionally fill your head with positivity to keep you in that realm of “I’m growing.”
DR. GIA: Great, thank you so much for your time this afternoon.
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