All of us sit in a second chair somewhere in our lives. Just by the very nature of following Jesus, we choose to occupy the second chair. What I mean is that there is someone in the “first chair” role, where they are the leader, and we work to assist them, in a “second chair” role. I have spent a LOT of time considering it, as I’ve always been in a second chair position in my ministry jobs. I have often felt wired to be a first chair person, and clearly called to be a second chair leader.
In my studies on this, several years back, I came across John Maxwell’s famous book “The 360 Degree Leader”. It is EXCELLENT. I highly recommend the read to everyone. The premise of the book is that we are called to lead in 360 degrees. Most of us recongnize that we lead “down” the ladder from our position. We have someone who reports to us, whether volunteer or staff, and we are called to lead them with clarity, humility, and vision.
But we are also called to lead sideways, to our peers. We need to prayerfully consider how to influence those around us. We are culture builders, or culture busters, by how we decide to carry ourself. If you find yourself in a role, whether it’s at work, school, home, on a team, etc. where you don’t like the culture, you can A. complain about it (culture buster) or B. live intentionally to change it (culture builder). Whatever is broken in your culture, you can live, speak, pray, and think in such a way to bring health to it. When you do this with your peers, you provide them the chance to build into the health of the culture as well, and it will begin to change. Be positive with your words, show hope, point to God and a better day. Praise people when they do well, even though you are not their boss. Notice the little things, and offer encouragement for them.
The final axis of our leadership (down and sideways) is up, towards our direct boss. Learning to lead up is often the hardest to do. Your boss may be amazing, or less than amazing. Either way, I promise they are dealing with challenges you don’t know, and pressures you can’t see. Learn to be an encouragement to your boss. The difference between an encouragement and a brown-noser is that an encourager speaks truth. A brown-noser will lie to make themselves look better. Find real things to be positive about. Thank your boss, to their face, privately. When others in your group speak about management or leadership, speak positively. Look for ways to pass resources to your boss that help them. Find ways you can quietly help your boss succeed, for their sake, not for a pay raise. If you understand that ultimately making your boss a success helps the entire organization, you can leverage a lot of influence up the ladder.
So, which direction are you excelling in? Which direction do you need to put some thought and prayer into? When we view ourselves as 360 degree leaders, we can leverage a servant’s heart in a whole new way.
I’d love to know your thoughts or questions.