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8 Ways to Become an Emerging Leader

  • Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
  • Updated Oct 18, 2016
8 Ways to Become an Emerging Leader

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jonathan Pearson’s new book Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make (Moody Publishers, 2014).

Older leaders who serve with you in your church, business, or other organization are looking for the right people to take their place once they move on. If you’re going to be one of the next generation of leaders to take charge, you’ll need to use your God-given personality and gifts to inspire others and accomplish great things – which involves making key shifts in your attitudes and actions that will help you succeed.

Here are ways you can change your attitudes and actions to prepare yourself for greater leadership responsibilities in the future:

Shift from entitlement to honor. Face the reality that you’re not actually entitled to authority and influence before you earn both; nor are you entitled to happiness at any cost. While you should be treated with respect as a child of God, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you’re not entitled to rewards, but are a sinner saved by grace that you didn’t deserve. Rather than focusing on what you want others to give you, focus on how you can give them the honor by which God wants all of your relationships to be characterized. Start by honoring God in all of your decisions, doing your best to be faithful in everything you say and do. Honor the people who lead you at your organization and elsewhere – even when they make mistakes – out of recognition for who they are and appreciation for the duty they have. 

Shift from unreliable to consistent. You can prove your potential as a leader by being disciplined enough to do the same good work with regularity. Don’t drop out when it’s not easy or convenient to serve or when you aren’t getting the results you want. Instead, consistently show up, work hard, and do what’s right when you make decisions. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you live by consistent moral values in your personal life as well as your professional life, since effective leaders can’t separate the two. Plan ahead (but with realistic expectations) to establish a consistent schedule that will help you maximize your effectiveness.

Shift from dissension to cooperation. As a leader, you can’t afford to waste valuable time and energy dealing with unnecessary conflicts. Don’t view other people as less valuable than yourself, or as tools to use to accomplish your agenda. Ask God to help you see others as he sees them, and to value them accordingly. Remember that since people are God’s priority, they should also be your priority as a leader. Whenever you disagree with others, know that those disagreements don’t have to lead to dissension. Commit to working together with other people in your organization to find mutual solutions to problems. Cooperating with others allows you to see what you can’t see by yourself and get ideas that you can’t think of yourself. You and the people you work with can all benefit from cooperation, since it takes the pressure off you as individuals and magnifies what you each can accomplish. Ask God to help you develop the humility you need to cooperate well. Value diversity and carefully listen to other people’s ideas.

Shift from conformity to integrity. Stop setting aside your beliefs and what you know is right in order to conform to what others are doing around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your conviction to do what’s right in every situation, no matter the consequences. Instead of focusing on pleasing other people, focus on pleasing God in your daily decisions. Practice the moral values you proclaim as well as you can, and admit your mistakes honestly. Use your leadership influence for the good of your organization’s mission and to help other people. Pray for the strength you need to resist temptations to compromise your moral values and stick to your convictions, even when doing so makes you unpopular; ultimately others will respect you for it.

Shift from pride to humility. The battle against pride is a tough one that you’ll need to fight constantly to protect your leadership from pride’s destructive power. Recognize that you are nothing without Jesus and rely on His grace every day. Humble yourself before God (who rewards humble people) and others by refusing to say or do what you want if it won’t please God or if it will alienate others. Speak up to give others credit for good work rather than just taking credit yourself. Listen to, and value, the opinions of others in your organization. Be genuine in all of your relationships.

Shift from passive to passionate. Carrying on your with your work passively will cause you to miss many valuable opportunities in front of you. Recognize when something has to be done and decide to take action yourself, whenever possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the passion you need to solve problems, overcome challenges, promote new ideas, and build more momentum in your organization. Make time to revive your spirit so you can remain passionate, don’t let negative people suck the passion out of you, and remind yourself often of God’s purposes for your life. 

Shift from selfishness to love. Move from being concerned with hoarding your blessings to being willing to love your peers. Real influence never comes from selfish manipulation; instead, it comes from love. Pray for the ability to love the people in your organization unconditionally. Put your love into action by making sacrifices for the good of other people, working just as hard behind the scenes as you do when others notice, connecting to people in caring relationships, speaking the truth in love, empowering others, and kindly correcting people who are making mistakes.

Shift from premature to patient. Don’t become so preoccupied with the desired results of your efforts that you make mistakes in the process. Be patient with the process, and with the people you lead, giving them the time they need to catch up to you while they follow and being graceful with them when they disappoint or frustrate you. Pray about difficult people and projects; when you do, God will give you fresh doses of the patience you need to deal successfully with them.

Adapted from Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make, copyright 2014 by Jonathan Pearson. Published by Moody Publishers, a division of the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Ill.,    

Jonathan Pearson is a millennial determined to leave the world in better shape than he found it. He is a Campus Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church, an ethnically-reflective church with multiple campuses, and Assistant Director of The Sticks, an organization that inspires small town leaders to lead BIG. Jonathan is also the co-creator of, a toolbox for young leaders. In his free time, you can find Jonathan watching sports, eating Mexican food, or going for a run around the neighborhood. Jonathan can be found online at and and on Twitter as @JonathanPearson. Jonathan is married to Melissa and the two live in Orangeburg, S.C.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.

Publication date: September 18, 2014

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