How to Lead When You’re NOT in the First Chair

“Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things, but the absence of vision.” —Anonymous

What is the primary thing that makes a leader?

Followers.

Someone who claims to be a leader yet has no one following them is just taking a walk by him or herself.

A leader will always have a following. A leader has vision. The best leaders facilitate following leaders who also have vision. These leaders have not only led others, but empowered others. They are not insecure, and therefore power-hungry. They understand that if what they are leading is to be great, it has to be bigger than them. The only way to make something live beyond you is to train up and mentor future leaders.

But what about those who are being mentored and following this leadership? What is their role? How are they supposed to lead when they still have a leader?

I’ve watched and worked with leaders who have gone down dark paths because they either weren’t taught how to be a following leader or they were just purely selfish. One thing is certain: Before you can lead, you must learn to follow.

I’ve been blessed to be under a leader who is definitely my authority, yet he allows me to bring some vision to the table. Not everyone is under a leader that empowers them, but everyone who is under a leader has a responsibility to that leadership.

So, how do those following leaders lead under authority without losing their vision?

Here are some things I’ve learned as a following leader:

Appreciate Your Role
What is your role and purpose? More than likely, someone has put you under their authority to fulfill a role. Do that role well. You accepted the role, so own it. Be the best you can be. Your leader should never have to worry about motivating you to fulfill the responsibility that you have agreed to. Usually when people become less than satisfactory in their position, those people have lost the passion for that position. They either need to reclaim that passion or move on. It’s not fair to those that you serve if your heart is not in it. When we quit appreciating our role, we’re cheating ourselves and those that benefit from it.

Be Loyal to Your Leader
When I accepted my first position at a church, my dad’s main advice was to be loyal to my leader at all times. Loyalty is all about being on the same team. Loyalty is not about agreeing. It’s about support. It’s perfectly fine and normal to disagree with your leader at times, but the moment you start telling people about your disagreement, you become disloyal. That disagreement should be between you and your leader. As a following leader, we should be loyal to our leader, even if we don’t agree at times. It’s your choice to remain under that authority. If you can’t be loyal, get out of there. Loyalty will open doors for you to be a leader. Your leader will be more receptive to you if they know they can trust you. The vision you have as a leader has a better chance to be manifested in your present situation, if those in authority know you are on their side. If there are sides, make sure you’re on the leader’s side. Be loyal. I’ve never regretted being loyal. A following leader owns being a great follower.

Communicate
Loyalty is about being on the same team. Communication is all about being on the same page. Major issues can arise and fester if we don’t learn to be great communicators. Never assume people know what you’re thinking. Communication breeds expectation. You can’t expect those those you’re leading to complete a task well if you haven’t clearly communicated it to them. Communicate to those over you and under you. You can never overcommunicate. If you have an issue with your leader, let them know. I remember when I first started working for my pastor. I was really the only one that would go talk to him if I had a problem with him. That’s also a huge aspect of loyalty. As a leader, wouldn’t you rather have those under you come and talk to you if they have a problem with you? If you say no, then you’re not cut out for leadership. Communication is not just about giving information. It’s also about receiving information. A great communicator is a great listener. You cannot help people unless you know where they are at. Assumption seems to be the trait of someone that doesn’t fully grasp communication. When you master the art of communicating your vision, you will lead with impact.

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Gary Durbin
Gary is the Worship Arts Director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @garydurbin or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garydurbin.