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What To Do When You're Not the Senior Leader

What to do when you're not the senior leader

So you’re almost ready to head home from three days of high octane inspiration and information at Orange Conference. You have ideas and dreams that have you incredibly motivated and excited. There are only two problems:

1. You aren’t the senior leader in your church.
2. The senior leader isn’t here (or is but doesn’t buy in).

What do you do? Here are five strategies on how to lead up when you get home:

1. Slow down. You will be tempted to go home and burst onto the scene with unbridled enthusiasm, casting vision for sweeping change. That might be a mistake. Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in a month. But don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in a year if you have a well-thought through strategy and approach.

2. Think comprehensively. Orange is a strategy. It’s designed to work throughout the church. Make sure you take some time to process what you’ve learned to see how it impacts the entire organization. Understand that your senior pastor may have budget restraints and many other interests to balance. Show him or her that your proposal understands that and you’re willing to be flexible on some points. Showing your senior leader you understand the bigger picture is huge.

3. Express desires, not demands. No one likes a demanding person. In fact, when someone demands something there’s something inside me that wants to not give them what they asked for. I don’t always follow that impulse, but expressing demands damages relationships. Instead, talk about what you desire. Show respect and tell him how you feel – don’t tell him how you think he should feel. And above all, don’t be demanding.

4. Explain the why behind the what. Your best argument is not the what (we need to completely transform our church and here’s how to do it). It’s the why (I think I’ve discovered a more effective way to reach families in our community and help parents win at home…can I talk to you about that?) The more you explain the why, the more people will be open to the what and the how. Lead with why. Season your conversation with why. And close with why.

5. Stay publicly loyal. Andy Stanley has said it this way: public loyalty buys you private leverage. It’s so true. If you start complaining about how resistant your senior leader is, not only does that compromise your personal integrity, he’s not dumb. He’ll probably hear about it and he will lose respect for you. In my mind as a senior leader, the team members who conduct themselves like a cohesive team always have the greatest private influence. Your public loyalty will buy you private leverage.

Well, those are a few thoughts from a guy who is a senior leader. What are you learning in this area? What’s worked for your team as you’ve engineered change?

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  • Just noticed two number 4’s in my comment above. Oops.

    • Carey

      Aaron when you are that kind you can have two #4s. Thank you.

  • Carey… this is brilliant. You are such a gift to the Church (capital C – Church) my friend. Thank you. These types of posts are so filled with insight and wisdom that can be applied instantly.

    My favorite point from above is number 4. (the why behind the what). So helpful. I do this… but needed the affirmation and encouragement. This is truly the most effective team-building approach. Plus this approach is one of respect and honor for the senior leader.

    Keep writing and sharing Carey… because you are a help. Here’s a handful reasons why I think you are so good at this:

    1. You are kind.
    2. You are an empathizer. -sp?
    3. You have a rare mix of experience and humility.
    4. You are secure in Christ’s love for you.
    4. You love people.

    Anyhow. I appreciate you.

    I’m a leader who is effecting some incremental change and I need this type of shot in the arm.

    +Aaron Kunce