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How to Overcome One of the Biggest Frustrations in Leadership

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One of the most commonly asked questions we get here at NewSpring Church from staff members at other churches is, “How can I ‘lead up? Or “How in the world can I influence those above me in leadership? OR, “How can I best help my senior pastor?” I think those are GREAT questions…so I asked Shane Duffey, one of the members of our senior management team, to write a post on this subject. Trust me, it is well worth the three minutes it will take you to read through this…and by applying what you read here, I believe any leadership team can be healthy!  —Perry Noble

If you are a leader, there are a few things I know about you. You are a decision maker, you can communicate vision and direction, you are driven, you have experienced victory, and you have experienced defeat. A leader is only a leader, in my opinion, when all of these things are true.

And there is one more thing that is true of all leaders: You have followers. You have a team of people who look to you for direction and challenge and encouragement, and at some level, they trust where you’re going or they wouldn’t follow you.

Leadership is a high calling, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. This responsibility doesn’t end with just the accomplishing of tasks or goals, because the greatest responsibility a leader has is to the people he or she leads.

The leader’s team is made up of real people with real ideas and with a real desire to succeed both in work and in life. A leader that forsakes the lives of those he leads and focuses only on the work they produce will soon find he has no team to lead.

How can a leader both focus on moving the organization forward and at the same time invest into the lives of those he or she leads?

I believe one of the answers is to realize that each individual on the team has the ability to both see and do things that the leader may not be able to see or do.

And as important as that realization is, it is even more important to create an environment where that leader can tap into the gifts and abilities embodied in each individual team member.

I love working for Perry Noble. He has all the qualities that a leader must possess to be successful. His vision is strong and clear, and his ability to rally our team is unmatched. But the thing that really sets Perry apart from most leaders is what he asks of those who follow him. He asks us to lead him.

Perry has set up our leadership team at NewSpring Church to operate in an atmosphere of what he calls “mutual submission. Now, we all know that Perry is the one ultimately in charge, or as Mark Driscoll calls it, “the first among equals, but Perry is clear in his charge to us that he needs us to push on his ideas, question them and state objections to anything we feel is off base.

What Perry asks of his leadership team and from our whole staff is for us to “lead up.

John Maxwell talks about this idea in his book The 360 Leader, and to paraphrase this concept, it simply means that any leader, at any level, needs each individual on his or her team to apply upon them leadership pressure.

No real leader needs “yes men and no real leader wants to lead in a vacuum of self-assurance. As Perry often tells us, he doesn’t want to be the emperor with no clothes. If something is wrong, he needs us to tell him, and when the pressure is on, he needs us to help him.

Leading up isn’t just about voicing disagreement with ideas; it is also verbalizing support and loyalty when the role of a leader is at its toughest point. Leading up requires honesty and commitment to the leader, even when it isn’t comfortable or easy.