How I discovered the unexpected joy of leading from the middle
Throughout my college career I was privileged to develop a number of meaningful relationships with my peers. The most valuable ones became those in which intentional investments of time and resources were given as a friend and mentor.
I soon realized that there was something more consequential than my own wisdom. For these young men, the most valuable items that I possessed were my own two ears. One-on-one communication became one of the greatest leadership tools that I could ever develop.
Many people were desperately longing for someone to listen. Leadership began to take a whole new shape. The gift of presence, both physically and mentally, began to speak louder than my words ever could. I quickly developed the skills of an active listener, meaningfully responding to things that I would hear.
For the past two years at ORU, I maintained a visible leadership role on campus. However, I was convinced early on that if I was going to make a real impact, my leadership would have to go far beyond that platform. It needed depth and personal contact with those whom I was leading.
I intentionally began to mentor two students in particular. For my last two semesters I poured my heart and soul into their development, in hopes that they would become more adept and accomplished leaders than I while still in college.
We walked through many valleys, embracing the process, learning to keep Jesus at the center. We also enjoyed some wonderful success that year and celebrated what the Father allowed us to learn just from walking and learning together.
From this experience, not only were those men impacted; I was changed forever. The potential of
peer-to-peer leadership is enormous. No matter our age, the up-close, personal nature of relational leadership changes us in a way that cannot happen at a distance.
I have found young leaders become discouraged with leading from the rear. If they sense they are limited in leadership, they immediately assume that the solution is to be out in front. This could certainly be an attitude seated in ego and rebellion. I am persuaded, however, that this is not always the case.
Well-meaning, humble hearts that have a genuine desire to lead often meet roadblocks. In an effort to accelerate their journey of leadership, they simply launch out to do what is in their heart, even when ill prepared to do so.
Ministries and other independent projects are stillborn because they are planted in well-intentioned ignorance. Young leaders have to learn to bloom where we are planted before they plant something new (see Ps. 92:13). Contributions are appreciated most when they are made appropriately, and young leaders must be challenged to find satisfaction in a meaningful niche now and patiently wait on God for wider opportunities.
We desperately need young leadership with vitality and strength in ministries today. How else will we answer the cries of this culture with relevance and truth? However, we cannot do so in exchange for the values of the church that make us one body. Growing up, my pastor would make the following statement: “What we need are leaders with faithfulness and loyalty—both of which are in short supply today.”
We need more leaders in the body of Christ than just those found in our pulpits and on our television sets. When young leaders embrace the value and importance of leading from places other than the front, the church will reap a rich harvest. And young leaders will be prepared for an effective future.
Dexter Sullivan is a gifted communicator who knows no strangers and is passionate about prayer, education and mentorship. From Detroit, he served for two years as the student body president at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., where he recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.
The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.