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3 Ways to Avoid Being a Reluctant Leader

Hearing the strain in his voice, it was clear the performer was holding back. The song, one of the pieces from “Phantom of the Opera,” required the vocalist to give it everything.

His voice didn’t crack, but I wondered how much better the song would have sounded had the performer been better prepared.

Likewise, you and I are best prepared to lead with excellence and confidence when we anticipate the level at which we’re expected to perform.

We face two problems: allowing the expectations of others to create ambiguity for how we must lead, and our lack of understanding of what is required to lead people to the desired objective.

Practically speaking, the expectation of leadership creates an open loop in our minds. An open loop is an unresolved situation in which we know there is something at stake if we don’t act, but we don’t know what we must do to close the loop and resolve the situation.

Instead of relying on the expectations of others to define our objectives and how we lead, we must own our leadership. We are not alone in this challenge; God constantly reminds us that he is active and present to give us clarity and direction:

  • “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8
  • “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8

These two factors are external. There is a deeper issue that plagues us all: we all carry with us the mantle of a reluctant leader.

Moses was a reluctant leader, making excuses for his speech and his age.  He passed Israel’s leadership to Joshua, with the encouragement, “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic…”

In the first chapter of Joshua, God commanded Joshua, “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Don’t Hold Back

As a leader, are you holding back? Are you a reluctant leader?

For many of us, there’s tension between the leadership we practice in our vocation (the work to which we’re called on a day-do-day basis), and what we experience in church and ministry.

It’s frustrating when you feel qualified and competent in your daily work, but are made to feel inadequate and unprepared in a ministry environment, as if your gifts and abilities are not valued or relevant.

Let me reassure you that you’re not alone. It can lead to discouragement and self-doubt when you offer the gifts God has given you to a church or ministry that rejects them because they don’t fit their model.

A friend shared this observation about his experience of leadership within the church: “I thought I was the only oddball in the church who kept trying to convince leadership to embrace entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. The typical response has been a look and demeanor that says; ‘Isn’t he adorable? Does he realize he has a tree growing out of the top of his head?  We’ll humor him though because he tithes and has a whimsical personality.’”

Don’t be discouraged. Your gifts are relevant and desperately needed to help people understand and model work as worship. 

If the Church rejects your gifts, take them to the marketplace where you know they will be welcomed and will impact the most people.

You Don’t Need Permission to Lead

We live in a culture that listens to the loudest voice and glorifies the leader with the most followers.

  • Nurture Trust. In your circles of influence, with whom do you make the greatest impact? Nurture trust with them, and lead them faithfully in the direction which God is leading you.
  • You don’t need permission to lead. Serve by leading, quietly and diligently.

Don’t Look Back

  • Get out of your way. If there is an objective or goal to which you are leading, and it is your weaknesses that prevent you from getting there — delegate the responsibilities for the things that you do not do best to those who do them better than you.
  • Don’t listen to the voices in your head. Don’t let the baggage of negative thoughts and discouragement that people have you to keep you from following God’s will for you in life and leadership.

Stop Micro-managing

  • Get out of your team’s way. Equip the people around you with the resources they need to amplify your leadership and fulfill their calling. Don’t be an obstacle to what God wants to do in the lives of the people around you, empower them to see what God is doing and meet him there.
  • Know what your team members need to perform at their best. If you are a leader of people, it is your role and responsibility to lead them and prepare them to accomplish the big picture vision. Equip people to serve and lead the community of people you serve, and in that way, you will multiply your impact and leadership.
  • Lead by serving. Be the example of leadership that you want the people around you to emulate. Not only will you multiply the leaders around you, but you will also create a culture of shared values and vision.

One last word of encouragement: If you choose to remain a reluctant leader, don’t be so hard on yourself.

If you are ready to take the next step and need permission to lead, I’m giving it to you right now.

Go—be strong and courageous! The LORD is with you.


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unsplash-logoJehyun Sung

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