Short intro alert. I’ve been in ministry for 16 years now, half of that being here in Arizona at MISSION Community Church. I’ve been hired, and I’ve been fired(or, in church terms, “got resigned”). I’ve had to hire people, and I’ve had to fire(in management terms, “let go”) of people. I’ve been the oldest, most tenured person in the room and more often than not, been the youngest, most inexperienced knucklehead in the room. I’ve hated ministry(almost left for a start-up company), and I have absolutely loved ministry. But this one thing has remained the same all of these years; I have always felt like a young leader.

It’s not easy, I’ll give you that. Being the smartest, best-looking, most creative person in the room is tough when you’re the one taking coffee orders and making copies for the rest of the group. Biting your tongue when someone is talking about something you know nothing about is excruciating. In all seriousness, it can be really tough being a young leader, especially if you’re not surrounded by great leaders. It feels like you’re always on a job interview, even when you’ve got the job. It seems like your work is always under a microscope and before you know it; someone has taken a sledgehammer to your shoulder. Well, I hear you, and I’m with you, but push through it, I promise it’s worth it. Here are five tips to help you succeed as a young leader.

1.  Don’t speak. In the words of one of the greatest philosophers of our time, G. Stefani, don’t speak. Just stop talking and listen for a minute. I promise you; you’re not the smartest in the room. When someone is talking about finances, and you’re the creative arts director, listen, or doodle and pretend like you’re listening. If you don’t have anything beneficial to add, then don’t. Listen and learn; that’s your role in these moments.

2.  Ask Questions. When you do speak, make sure there’s a healthy amount of questions. A sign of a great young leader is that they’re not afraid to ask questions because they’re confident enough to do so. Now make sure they’re good questions, or at the very least, strategic questions. 
Good question scenario: Harold says you can’t write with the church’s pencil and then claim the work to be yours because that’s actually “works for hire.” The good question would be, “Oh wow Harold, I had no idea, and I really appreciate you bring that to my attention. In fact, I’m not sure what ‘works for hire is,’ could you explain that to me?” Now, as I’m writing this, I’m saying it condescendingly. Don’t say it that way because Harold is actually trying to help you. Take his help and learn.  
Strategic Question: Your boss comes in with a fresh cut. “Man, there’s something different about you today. Did you get a cut because it’s looking like it’s on the drip...” or however you young bloods say it these days

3.  Prepare for meetings. Most of the time, we show up to meetings late... mentally(and sometimes physically). Don’t show up late to meetings. Prepare your mind. Your homework every night is to look at the next day and show up prepared the most prepared. If you have already done the research, come ready with ideas for the brainstorm, already come up with multiple solutions to the problem, you are way more useful to the team than Johnny who’s scrambling to get on the same page. You will set yourself apart as a leader in the room and will be given so many more opportunities to lead if you do just this one thing. 

4.  Stay at the bottom. You may feel like you’re at the bottom of the totem pole in most of the rooms you sit in. When you are finally in a room where you’re officially at the top, stay at the bottom. If you can start leading teams now with the mindset that you are there to support and serve that team, you will go way farther and have a much more loyal team than any other leader in your organization. 

5.  Be You, Be Brilliant. In the most humble way you possibly can, say this to yourself and believe it. Every day, be you and be brilliant. You are in the position you are for a reason. Be confident in that. Don’t be over-confident and don’t be a push-over. Stand your ground, go above and beyond, be your brilliant self, and be confident that you have a purpose exactly where you are. 

If you’re still reading this, I want you to know that I’m still learning how to be a great young leader too. One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to surround yourself with great, healthy leaders. Leaders who encourage you, challenge you, and count on you. You will be ten times the leader with these people by your side than if you decide to go it alone. Put it this way, at your promotion dinner, it should take you a good bit to get through all the people you need to thank and why.

Paul YerrickComment