If you are a leader, you want to lead. You have ideas of how your ministry, your congregation, or your organization should be led and would love to see those things happen.
Even if you are not the guy in charge. That’s what makes you a leader.
You are passionate about the place you work, the calling you have, and you want to move the vision forward. But what do you do when you aren’t the lead guy? How do you influence your organization when you aren’t the person in charge?
Because we can’t all be on the top of the org chart.
And if we can’t all be on the top, for the person in charge, it is important that great leaders are scattered all throughout the organization. Any organization, especially a church, needs to have great leaders throughout the entire organization. Our churches need leaders who are passionate about the mission and vision of the congregation and lead from within their own spheres of influence.
A good leader doesn’t necessarily have to have the highest position in the organization, he simply hast to lead from wherever he is positioned.
How to Lead from Below
Note: I am far from an expert at this, but am just sharing some of the things I have been taught, have observed in others, or have tried myself.
Leverage influence over a position.
Relational influence is more valuable than a position on a org chart any day. Positional authority seeks to get people to listen and obey commands. Relational influence gets a team on board with the direction the team needs to go.
People simply react more enthusiastically to being enlisted in a common cause than they do to being ordered around. And getting people to act on their own to achieve the goals you have in mind is far more effective than having them only react to your direction. – Wall Street Journal
While you may not be in a position of authority in your congregation, the most valuable tool you have as a leader is not your position. Regardless of where you fall in the org chart, if you have relationships with those you work with, you have an opportunity to lead.
Lead with honor and respect.
The fastest way to lose the support of the leader who is authority over you is to dishonor or disrespect his authority. This might seem obvious, but when there are disagreements or division, this becomes all the more important. If you want to earn the right to be heard by the leader in authority over you, you have to have honor and respect for that leader.
There is no doubt that as a leader, you will disagree with other leaders in your organization.
In fact it would be surprising to me if a Senior Leader in any organization had a staff that 100% agreed with his decisions all the time. And if that were the case, I would be very skeptical of working in an organization that created robots that blindly support every decision of their Senior Leader.
Since you will likely disagree with something, the question then becomes how do you disagree well?
Andy Stanley says, “Support publicly; challenge privately.” And when you support them, mean it. And when you challenge them privately, really listen. And admit when you’re wrong.
Want to gain influence with those you work for? Do your job well. Don’t just meet the requirement, do it exceedingly well. Don’t just serve those in your ministry, be the best servant you can possibly be. Don’t just preach a sermon, preach the best sermon you know how. Don’t just provide pastoral care to those you counsel, give them your full and undivided attention.
Seth Godin said, “The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable.”
What are some other ways you have found helpful when leading from below?
RJ Grunewald is an Associate Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Michigan. He believes that theology should not be something reserved for the academics and dead guys, but should be translated into the language of everyday life. He blogs at rjgrune.com