When is a Young Leader Ready for More Responsibility?


By: Dan Reiland

I love coaching young leaders, and one thing is true for sure, they are eager to rise in their level of responsibility. That’s a good thing. Most leaders (of any age) want to excel, be productive, and make a difference. They want to rise in leadership! Knowing when that should happen is a very artful process requiring wisdom and discernment.

When it comes to young leaders, always put development over accomplishment. Giving more responsibility too quickly can hurt a young leader and cause a set-back in their development. Giving more responsibility too slowly can frustrate a young leader and cause them to lead beneath their ability, and possibly affect their team spirit. Coming alongside young leaders with an intentional combination of caring nurture and intentional development is essential for their ministry success.

For some, more responsibility may come quickly; for others, the process requires more time. There is no set formula, and neither scenario is better than the other. It depends on factors like their abilities, personality, experience level, and drive, etc.

Developing leaders is an art. You may have helpful models and proven principles, but ultimately each person needs good coaching that is uniquely designed and tailored for them.

How do you know when it’s time to increase responsibilities? Let’s start with three poor reasons to add to a young leader’s responsibility:

You need a job done and there is no one else to do it. (It’s actually better to leave the job undone, than to put the wrong person in it, or someone who is not ready.)

They are successful in their current role, so the assumption is that they can carry more and continue to remain equally successful. That’s not a good assumption. Careful consideration and conversation are required before adding more.

Pressure of any kind, including political in nature, from others who want the young leader to rise.

5 Key Indicators that it may be time to increase the level of responsibility:

1) They love their current job and excel at it.

If the staff member cannot find joy and productivity in their current role, it is challenging for that person to rise and excel with additional leadership responsibility or in a new position.

Over time, the majority of success is found through a positive attitude expressed through persistence, gratitude, and personal growth. Competence is essential, but attitude is the winning edge.

There are, of course, unique circumstances such as a mismatch of the person and their role from the start, or perhaps bad chemistry with a supervisor. But even then, the ability to adapt is a good indicator of their capacity to excel with an increased set of responsibilities.

2) They’ve been in their current role long enough to show consistent results.

If a young leader shows up and does fantastic, that’s great. But like the honeymoon of a newly married couple, the first few weeks and months are usually smooth sailing. In terms of real results for your young leader, you don’t really know anything of their competence until at least twelve to eighteen months in a specific leadership role.

The minimum cycle of a full year in the church calendar and eighteen months is better because it allows the young leader the opportunity to not only build, strengthen, and improve a ministry but to sustain it. Then you can begin to measure results.

3) They demonstrate margin and capacity for more.

Margin and capacity are subjective and carry a different interpretation for each person. Both are wonderful traits that begin to authentically reveal themselves only after the leader has demonstrated love for their job, a great attitude, and competence.

When those behaviors are consistently in play, you can gain confidence that their skill, experience level, and ability to prioritize (focus), have created margin (space) to handle more (capacity).

One practical way to discern margin and capacity is that in addition to their job, they often see and provide solutions for problems outside their responsibilities that others don’t see.

4) They demonstrate a healthy personal life and growth patterns.

You discover a more accurate big picture when you pay attention to a person’s whole life. How are things at home with their family? Whether single or married, the health of their family relationships is a significant and important factor. When life is good at home, that helps any leader succeed in their work at church, but home has to come first. No one can carry an ever-increasing heavy load when things are stressful in their personal life.

This truth makes it difficult to grow as a leader (your margin is devoted to survival, not growth), and therefore, it is unwise to increase responsibility.

This is true for leaders of all ages. So, if there are high levels of stress, it’s much better to come alongside and offer support, wise counsel, and coaching and come back to the topic of increased responsibilities at a later date.

5) The organization has an available role that fits their gifts and abilities.

Sometimes a young leader must be patient. If your church doesn’t currently have an area of responsibility that makes sense, it’s foolish just to make up a job so they have more to do.

Greater responsibility must be an appropriate marriage of the gifts and desires of the young leader, as well as the needs and vision of the organization. Greater responsibility should only be given when the gifts and skills meet the needs of the organization and fulfill the passion and desires of the young leader.


© 2020 Dan Reiland | The Pastor’s Coach – Developing Church Leaders

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