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How to Lead When You’re in Over Your Head

On the other hand, don’t repeatedly throw yourself under the bus either saying things like, “I’m no good at this,” or, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

That’s not true humility. That’s a lack of confidence.

Instead, just be truthful and express a humble confidence in the long-term outcome. Say things like, “This is new to me, but I’m sure we can figure this out together.” Or, “The learning curve is steep right now, and I’m grateful for a good team around me. We’ll get this done somehow.”

Sometimes when you’re really shaky, any confidence you’re expressing is in God, not in yourself.

I realize that’s good theology in every season, but sometimes the only confidence you will have is in God. That’s more than OK.

2. Get a great team of people around you who are smarter than you.

You really can’t do this alone.

The more alone you are, the more difficult it will be.

So … get some mentors to build into you. If no one’s offering (they rarely do), just ask.

Recruit the next and brightest leaders you can find and mobilize them. Here are five tips on how to attract and lead leaders who are better than you.

3. Become an avid learner.

Just because you don’t know something now doesn’t mean you can’t ever know it.

Become an avid learner.

Get up early. Read everything you can. Take notes from everyone around you. Live and lead in active learning mode.

You need a steep growth curve in this stage.

Make sure you spend time every day learning and growing.

And don’t spend so many hours working in leadership that you can’t work on your leadership.

4. Grow comfortable saying “I don’t know.”

Insecurities run deep in most of us. And often our fear is that when people realize how little we know they will reject us.

But when you tell them you don’t know, two things happen.

First, they’re glad you realize what they already know—that you don’t know.

Second, they probably like you a little bit more because your admission you don’t know makes you more relatable, more human.

Don’t rest at “I don’t know” though. Tell them you’ll find out and report back. But at least admit it. Don’t bluff.

5. Trust God.

Yes, I know this sounds a little cliche. But it’s so true.

Many of us experienced a specific calling into ministry. If so, you need to trust God to get you through it.

In the absence of a clear calling (as I outline here, not everyone receives a ‘call to ministry’ in the transition sense), if you are serving in the area of your gifting and passion, long-term things almost always get better.

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.