Every leader faces hurdles. Whether you’re leading a business team or a church, a small group or a large organization, there is no end to the number of challenges that you’ll face when you step out to lead in an organization.
I’ve found myself in my fair share of frustrating leadership positions in business and ministry, and while I still have a long way to go, I am learning to navigate them with patience and grace.
Here are three leadership positions that I’ve found to be particularly difficult and some strategies that I’ve learned to lead through them.
You lack authority.
Leading can be difficult when you’re not the one calling the shots.
When I was a part of the pastoral team of a small church in rural North Carolina, I saw changes that needed to be made in our church, but I didn’t have the buy in of our lead pastor and I didn’t have the authority to make the changes myself. I was frustrated that the person making the decisions didn’t see what I saw, and that frustration often turned to bitterness as I tried and failed to make things change.
While leading from the second chair can be challenging, it’s not impossible. As Clay Scroggins shares in an interview on The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, leading when you’re not in charge involves stewarding the influence you have in order to affect change. This includes taking initiative to lead yourself and sharing your insights and ideas in a way that adds value to the people to whom you report.
Clay shares that this carries an added benefit of setting you apart for future leadership opportunities that arise because you’ve demonstrated that you’re ready and willing to rise to the challenge.
You lack trust.
Regardless of your position, it’s difficult to lead if you lack trust.
This is especially challenging when you’re new to a team. You may have the competence to lead in an area, but you haven’t yet demonstrated that you’re ready to make the right decisions over the long haul.
Trust is earned by demonstrating both your competence and your character over the long haul. It comes from making the right decisions in the small things over and over until it becomes clear that you can make the right decisions in the big things.
You lack a voice.
Sometimes the biggest challenge of leading is simply being heard.
I was recently involved in a ministry project where I felt like my voice wasn’t being heard in the conversation. There are a number of reasons why this was the case. It was a brand new initiative in our church. There were a lot of voices speaking into the decisions that needed to be made, and while my contributions were important, so were those of others on the team.
In these cases, patience pays off and a slow, methodical approach may be best. Rather than shouting louder than other people in the room (figuratively or literally), try having one-on-one conversations with the key stakeholders in your project. Understand the value that they add to the team, and contribute your unique perspective in a manner that builds up the entire team.
Patience + Grace = Effectiveness
These are just a few of the challenging leadership positions in which you’ll find yourself. Through all of the frustrating seasons of leadership I’ve experienced, the single greatest factor that has helped me lead through them is to lead with patience and grace.
Patience to wait not only for others to come around, but for God to prepare you for the next season of your life, work, or ministry. Grace to understand that the people who you’re leading — or the people who are leading you — are probably just as frustrated as you are, and that you’ll need to work together for the greater mission of your organization in order to accomplish your goals.
What are some challenging leadership positions that you’ve encountered? How did you lead through them?