If there is one thing a leader loves, it’s getting stuff done. Someone wise once put it like this,”Leaders have a bias toward action.”
For the Church, when leaders take action it results in God’s people being equipped and empowered to make more disciples of Jesus. Nothing will ever be more important than this.
As a leader you probably hate roadblocks to accomplishing this mission.
And you also likely hate being told no when you feel it stops or stalls the progress.
But what do you do when the obstacle seems to be another leader who is in authority over you?
In this post, I will assume the person in authority over you deeply believes in the same mission as you and is working toward that end. If that’s not the case, don’t read this. Instead gracefully pray for God’s guidance regarding what’s next.
This post is meant to clarify how you can come alongside your senior leader, honoring him or her throughout the process, and accomplish far more together.
Awhile back, I wrote an article titled,” 9 Things to Keep in Mind Before Leading Up ,” where I laid out advice on whether it is wise for you to lead up in your context.
Below are 10 simple but essential tips on leading up—if you’ve felt Jesus prompting you to do so.
While it may seem obvious, we can forget this one in our nervousness or excitement in bringing something to a senior leader. Pray for peace that it is the right time. Pray for wisdom that you are seeing the situation through the eyes of Jesus. Finally, pray for humility as it is something young leaders can always use more of!
2. Know the Right Moment
The right moment to share a new idea to a senior leader is…well, that depends on many things. It might come down to knowing if your boss is a morning person or not. It would be good to take into consideration when the more stressful part of their week is. For instance, I never bring anything huge to my boss on a Thursday (sermon writing day) or on a day when he has an Elder meeting or Leadership Team meeting (once a month, back-to-back!) or leading up to a Deacon Meeting (once a quarter). The right moment is often when their stress is low, their mood is up, and their stomach is full!
3. Be Humble—or Else
Presentation is everything. More important than what you say is how you say it. If you come off as accusatory or arrogant, your words won’t go very far—nor should they.
4. Use Thoughtful and Diplomatic Phrasing
A solid way to increase your effectiveness in leading up is to use phrases like “What would you think if we…?” or “Have you ever thought about…?” Questions will always lead to more open conversations than statements do when talking with senior leaders. Be assured this is NOT manipulation. It is simply showing respect and knowing your audience.
5. Use Your Emotional Intelligence
I have had to change my approach, phrasing, and even body language on the fly based on what I was sensing from my senior leader in the moment of discussing a proposed idea. You may need to abort your mission in mid-conversation! Be flexible and know the script you’ve written in your head might not play out as you had planned.
6. Be Patient. Be Patient. Be Patient.
For better or worse, most churches move at the speed of glaciers. Be patient in helping to bring about change. Senior leaders have a lot to think and worry about and whatever your ideas may be, if accepted, they’ll likely find a place on the church’s back burner.
7. Give Solutions.
If you have a new initiative in mind or see a problem that needs fixing, you had better have options and solutions to make it work. A senior leader doesn’t need more on his or her plate. Be committed to making others’ jobs easier and more joyful.
8. Don’t Expect Immediate Feedback
If your ideas do catch the attention of senior leadership, don’t expect gratitude or another response right away. They’ll need time to think through strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats organization-wide if your idea will be implemented.
9. Listen—Then Work Toward Collaboration
Whatever response you get, be sure to really listen to what your senior leader has to say. If it’s a no, then seek to understand why that is and be committed to making the organization better. If it’s a yes, be committed to being a partner and resource going forward if it is asked of you.
10. Pray Again
If things go well, give thanks and gratitude in prayer as well as ask for wisdom going forward. If things don’t go well, pray for a spirit of peace and a teachable spirit. If things fall somewhere in the middle, keep praying for direction and how you can be a Jesus-centered servant.