How to Know if You’re Ready to Lead
It can be hard to know when to jump into the leading position.
I work with lots of young leaders. And, they ask the question a lot of whether I think they are ready to be in a lead position. And, I want to be helpful.
Don’t misunderstand—most of these people are leaders now—they are usually leading some area of ministry, but they aren’t in the “leading position.” They aren’t yet the senior leader—but they believe they want to be some day.
I frequently get asked when is the right time to make the jump.
I wish I knew the magical answer. I don’t. I do believe you can jump too soon. I also believe you can wait too long.
You can jump before you’re ready. I’ve seen some leaders make the switch to senior leader only to find out they wish they had prepared a little longer. Some then go back under another senior leader. And, sadly, I’ve seen some completely crash and burn—and take years to recover. Some never go back to the lead position.
I’ve seen others wait long after they were ready. They missed opportunities in leadership and, in the process, they frustrated everyone, including themselves, because they didn’t make the move. Staying anywhere too long can cause frustration to a team—and the one who stays.
It’s a fine line.
So, my advice for the leader wondering when to make the jump to senior leadership is pretty simple. When you’ve lived in the tension for too long—it’s time to jump.
What’s the tension? Well, I believe you’ll know it when you’re living it. It is probably why you would read a post like this, but let me give some symptoms.
Here are a seven ways to tell the tension has gone on long enough:
1. When the urge to try is greater than the fear of jumping.
2. When you’ve maxed out where you currently are in growth opportunities. And, it frustrates you nearly every day.
3. When you find yourself questioning senior leadership—all senior leadership—good or bad leadership—because you think you could do it better.
4. When you think more about what could be if you were in the leading position than what could be if you stay in the learning position.
5. When you believe in your heart you’ve been called to lead at the senior level.
6. When those who know you best think you’re ready. Don’t be afraid to ask.
7. When senior leadership positions continue to make themselves available or come to your attention. (Is someone trying to tell you something?)
This post is intended to help process a question I’m frequently asked. Please understand, these are just my thoughts. Also, when you are in the season of sensing you are ready, never be arrogant, flippant or act like you know it all. You don’t. You will have to trust me with this one. I will write more about what to do in this season in my next post.
We should always learn all we can, but the fact is, you may not know until you try. Most of what you learn will come when you are actually doing the job. When you are finally ready, and you make the jump to senior leadership, that’s when the learning really begins to take place. On-the-job training is the best kind.
But, preparing for the big jump is critically important also. Don’t rush the next step because of impatience. Just as you can’t go back to high school or that first attempt at college—it will never be quite the same after you make the jump.
This is why it’s a fine line—hence the tension.