I am consistently asked about the beginning days of a leadership position. In my opinion, the opening days of any job are some of the most important. Apparently others think so also. Recently someone direct messaged me on Twitter to ask, “What words of advice do you have for a newbie leader? I’m beginning my first pastoring role after years in student ministry.”
Now, as a “newbie” myself, I speak with more passion, and perhaps even more authority on the subject. I messaged him back and said “Learn the people first…go slow to change…think intentional in all you do…pace yourself.”
That was Twitter. This is my blog, so I assume I should explain a little further.
Here are 4 words of advice for the newbie leader:
Never use the word “newbie” again. (Just kidding. That’s not one of the four. But, seriously, is there a better word).
The real 4:
Learn the people first - Relational leadership is always most effective, but especially for a new leader. They need to learn to trust you. They need an opportunity to feel you are committed and connected to them. They want assurance you have the best interest at heart for them and the church or organization they’ve loved probably longer than you have.
Go slow to change – The older the church or organization, the more important it will be that you take time to implement change. Know the key players, communicate, communicate, communicate, and help people understand why the change is needed. All change is resisted, but fast change is most powerfully rejected. This doesn’t mean don’t change. Most likely they’ll expect and even want some change, but be smart about it. Listen and learn the things you can change immediately and things where you’ll need to move more slowly. That process takes time to do well.
Think intentionally in all you do – The more you can strategically plan your moves, the more you can help steer them to a positive outcome. In every area of your leadership, take time to think through the best way to handle the situation. Get input from key people. Plan your approach. Prioritize. Strategize. You’ll have plenty of surprises along the way, but if you’re intentional in the decisions you have control over, you’ll be better prepared to handle the unexpected.
Pace your leadership for the long-term – You won’t often know the length of your tenure as leader, but you should script yourself to be there for the long haul. That means you shouldn’t try to accomplish everything in the beginning. Spread some of your enthusiasm and energy over the first year or more. It will keep momentum going longer, keep you from burning out and the church or organization from wearing out. Also, think for the church or organization beyond even you. How can things keep building, healthy, vibrant and growing for the years ahead? When you set worthy visions and goals that carry people forward, help them dream and give them hope, they will want to follow your leadership.
Have you ever been the new guy? What would you advise?