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Want More as a Leader? 5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle It

  • Name
    Carey Nieuwhof
So you’re probably hoping for more. Almost every leader does. More people. More team. More responsibility. More money. More opportunity. More of, well, you know, more of almost anything. Most of us leader types are rarely satisfied with the status quo. You may want more, but are you ready for more? Could you handle it if it came your way? When I think back to when I was a young leader, I know there were more than a few seasons when I wasn’t ready for more, even when more came my way. I was a solo pastor for the first few years, working alone out of my basement because none of the churches I served even had an office. We had hired a few part-time staff, and after a few years of part timers, I was ready to hire our first other full-time staff member. I remember a corporate coach who attended our church asking me, “Are you ready to handle leading a team?” And I remember telling her, more out of pride and bravado than wisdom, that I was, thank you very much. It was a polite conversation, but I was wrong. Actually, it was just foolish not to take her advice. As my friend Casey Graham told me, more people make your problems more apparent. I would learn over the next few years what it meant to lead a team in a rapidly growing church. I could have gone further faster had I listened. So how do you know if you’re ready?

Five Signs You’re Ready to Handle More as a Leader

Here are the signs I’ve seen in myself and in the leaders around me that signal I might be ready to handle more. And the inverse has been true too—when these signs aren’t present, I haven’t been ready. Here are five signs you’re ready to handle more as a leader, and some links if you want to dig deeper:

1. You’ve built a better system.

As you grow, you need better systems. A system is simply  a way of operating. You have a system. Your church has a system—a way of doing things. For most smaller organizations, the system might be as simple as ‘wing it.’ But even if you’re winging it, that’s a system. And it’s a system that won’t scale. If you drill down and ask around, you would discover that you do have a system, even if it’s not a great one. And, as we all know, your current system is designed to get you the results you’re currently getting. If you don’t like the results, change your system. I wrote about systems that handle growth in this post on how to break the 200 attendance barrier, and again in this post on the systems needed to guide your church beyond 200, 400 and 800.

2. You’re working through your personal issues.

Having more won’t make your personal issues go away … having more will make them worse. You’re going to have more problems as you grow, and the problems will be more complex. This demands a greater degree of focus and leadership and naturally gives you less margin. That’s a perfect recipe for your unresolved issues to bubble up. Suddenly you’ll discover you’re more jealous, envious, angry, paranoid, worried, reclusive or fill-in-the-issue-here than you ever thought you were. As we grew, I found I had to wrestle down my personal issues or I would implode or explode. I spent significant amounts of time in the office of Christian counselors working through my issues. Obviously, that’s a life-long process (sanctification always is). But hopefully you’re not working on exactly the same issues year after year. As you work through your personal issues, your ability to handle challenges, people and responsibility grows.

3. You’re passing the character test.

As I outlined in this post, character, not competency, determines your true capacity. Character is related to working through your personal issues (above, #2). But it’s deeper than that. Character is the foundation that a solid ministry and organization is built on. You will only go as far as your character will take you. If you want a quick gut check on how you character is these days, this post outlines five signs you lack integrity. And this post lists five ways to build your integrity. You will only go as far as your character will take you. If you’ve been working hard on your character, it’s a sign you may be ready for more.

4. You have the right senior leaders in place.

You’ve heard it said, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team. That’s just true. But you also need to have the right team. I look for leaders with character, who are aligned with the mission, vision and strategy, and leaders who have a spiritual maturity and tactical ability to advance our mission. If you are wondering why you don’t have more high-capacity leaders on your team, this post outlines six reasons many leaders lose high-capacity volunteers. And this post outlines three key ingredients I look for in people who form my inner circle.

5. You’re more mature than you were a few years ago.

Another year older does not equal another year of maturity. I’ve known some exceptionally mature 25-year-olds and some exceptionally immature 45-year-olds. I’ll take a mature 25-year-old over an immature 45-year-old any day. Maturity is a combination of time, skill and character. So the question is: Are you growing in maturity? Are you wiser than you were two years ago or five years ago? If the answer is yes, you might be ready for more. We’ve covered the character issues above, but if you’re looking for a short cut to the skill part as a young leader (there are short cuts), this post outlines seven practical things younger leaders can do to help them excel in the workplace.

More of Everything

The upside, of course, is that if you work on your character, systems, team and skill set, you will be positioned to handle more. What’s really awesome is that you’ll be positioned to handle more not just in ministry, but at home and in life. The skills are directly transferrable. Growing in all these things has helped me not only become a better leader, but a better husband, father, neighbor and even friend. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s good to see progress. What has helped you get ready to handle more? Anything you’ve seen that signals someone’s ready for more?