How Does a Young Leader Earn a Seat at the Table?
In the past couple weeks, I’ve had conversations with three different young leaders, all asking essentially the same thing. How do I rise in my job?
All young leaders want to rise in their leadership. That is natural. It’s obvious that some rise quicker than others, but it’s not always just about talent. In fact, sometimes the most gifted and competent young leaders get stuck. They want a spot at the esteemed “leadership table” where the decisions are made, but that coveted seat eludes them.
Why do talented young leaders not advance?
It’s not only about how good you are, it’s equally about how you demonstrate your influence and express your desires. It’s about who you are and how you serve.
In smaller churches there may be only one leadership table, in larger churches there will be many… nonetheless there are always a finite amount of seats.
I Timothy 3:1 says . . . Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. (NIV)
I love how The Message says it: “If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good!”
The rest of the passage, however, addresses the qualifications of the leader.
With the exception of the ability to teach, skills are not listed! None are about pure competence and talent. The qualifications address:
In short, who you are affects how you serve and lead.
The real question is this: Is the young leader willing to pay the price to qualify? Many say yes, until they realize it can’t be done in a short amount of time.
Advice to young leaders:
1. Focus your energy on being helpful more than being at the table.
If your desire to serve and add value is greater than to be at a particular table, your influence will rise, and in time opportunities will present themselves. This is always true. If not where you currently serve, someone somewhere will notice. There is always an opening, somewhere, for bright and capable young leaders — young leaders who are willing to pay the price and add value rather than assume a seat at the table is automatically deserved.
It’s important to remember that an official position or title is not required for significant influence. Serving brings an authority all on its own. When competence is combined with character and a good attitude, a place at the table will become available at the right time.
2. Demonstrate competence in the area you have been chosen to lead.
Excel in what you have been asked to do. Get really good at your job before you seek the next job. Learn your craft, get better, become the go-to person that everyone wants on their team. Your results should speak for themselves so loudly that you never have to call someone’s attention to how hard you work. Let’s be candid, no one cares how hard anyone works. Everyone believes they work hard, it’s about what we accomplish that matters.
It’s better to find a good coach in a healthy environment, than to find a top job with a seat at the big table. A good coach will help you see things from a long haul perspective. He or she will bring wisdom that will offer long term success over winning a quick reward.
3. Wait for an invitation rather than push your way in.
If you are a sharp young leader with aspirations of increasing influence and making a big difference, it’s hard to wait. I truly understand. But in order to become good at your job, it’s also important to enjoy your job. I’ve never met anyone who was really good, with a seat of influence somewhere in the organization, who dislikes their job. (Or is indifferent about their job.)
Enjoying your job helps you wait for the invitation.
Waiting for an invitation requires patience and maturity, but it also brings joy. Joy not only rewards you with inner satisfaction, but draws others toward you.
In the end, you get what you dreamed about, without pushing your way in.
Knowing your true gifts and talents takes time. Try different things, practice different skills. You short-circuit your own future when you focus on rising and gaining a seat at the table, over taking the time to learn where God has gifted you and what He wants you to do.