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Hey, everyone, my name is Nick Farr and I’m the founder and host of the Tactical Ministry Podcast. My role is to help us cut through the crap and get to some really practical ministry and leadership advice. Today’s topic not only applies to the local church but also in business situations.

Over the years, I’ve heard pastors and leaders lament the fact that they seem to have little to no relationship with their lead pastor or supervisor. Having these relationships are key to developing your own leadership and preparing you to lead at higher levels. So, why do these relationships appear so hard to develop for so many? I think our biggest limiting belief can be described in one word: fear. We’re afraid that they don’t want to spend time with us. We’re fearful that they don’t want to pour into and develop us as leaders. The reasons can be many, but the fact of the matter is we have to replace this limiting belief with confidence.

Hear me out on this: Your leader still employs you for a reason. They still allow you to be at whatever level of leadership you find yourself right now. If they didn’t want to spend time or develop you, why would they keep you? Replace the limiting belief of fear with the confidence that God has you exactly where he wants you at the moment.

Over the years, I have felt and believed the lie of fear and for today’s podcast, I’d like to share 5 things I’ve learned about developing a better relationship with your leader.

The first lesson is this: Support them.

We need to support their vision, mission, and leadership for us to even begin developing a solid relationship. Let me say it this way, if you can’t support your leader and don’t believe in them, then why are you still in your role? Do everyone a favor and start looking for another job. Senior leaders can sniff this out. They know who’s ready to go into battle with them and who is ready to move the ball down the field. So the first thing you need to do is genuinely support their vision for your organization, their method for making it a reality, and their role.

So you may be thinking, “Ok, great! I can tell them and other people that I support my leader.” WRONG. This isn’t about using words but being a man or woman of action. You have to get out there and physically support them. Align your role, goals, and direction to theirs.

Every year I take my daughter to a father/daughter dance. It’s a great time where I can show her how a man is supposed to treat women. One of the center pieces of the night is dancing. We’re ok at it, but I’m always telling my daughter to let me lead. When both people are trying to lead the direction of the dance feet gets trampled. The same is true for your ministry or business.

Think about how you can uniquely embody their vision, mission, and respect for their leadership in your area. You’re not the leader—they are. How can you align yourself to compliment their leadership instead of killing their feet?

The second way we can develop a relationship with our leader sounds super easy but it’s actually rather difficult. Are you ready for this? Don’t do anything that they’ll have to apologize for.

Your leader is already taking hits left and right from people who think they can do it better. Don’t weaken them by giving others ammunition. Whatever your decision-making process is, it better include a filter for “Is this stupid? Do I REALLY need to do it? Will they have to apologize for my stupidity.”

Chance are if you don’t have that filter in place, you won’t be around for much longer. I’m speaking youth pastors here specifically, but this really applies to everyone. Youth Pastors, grow up. Stop trying to be cute and stop trying stupid stuff just to get students to like you. Someone has to pay for dumb ideas. Eventually, it’ll be you but your senior leader will also get dinged in the process because he/she employees you.

The third thing I’ve learned is to develop fantastic listening skills, but be ready to lead up when necessary.

Every leader has bad ideas and your senior leader is no different. Instead of being a yes man/woman, learn when to speak up in a respectful way to protect them. This can be tricky because not all leaders are healthy enough to receive real feedback. You don’t have to drone on accepting everything as fact, but you don’t have to be a jerk when giving helpful feedback either. Learn the art of giving constructive feedback in a healthy way.

Let’s just keep this moving with the fourth thing I’ve learned. This is probably the hardest of all of them. Even when you don’t agree with a decision, you need to support them publicly. This means that you never show dissension with other volunteers, non-involved staff, and the public. Your job is to support their leadership. Disagree all you want with them in private, but it has to stay private. It has to stay between them, you, and anyone else directly involved.

Resist the urge to even hint at disagreement publicly. You’ve got to control facial expressions, your tone of voice, and all those things that could hint at a rift.

Finally, the best way that I’ve learned to develop a relationship with your senior leader is to specifically ask them for time. Ask them to mentor you. But when you ask them, frame it in a way where YOU go asking questions. They answer. This means that it won’t burden them with having to come up with a lot of ways to engage you. You’re wanting to learn. You’re wanting to do the heavy lifting by coming prepared. You want to learn from their knowledge. The most time I’d ask for is 1-2 a month. If they offer every week, that’s great, but let it be their idea.

These 5 steps are sure fire ways to build a relationship with your senior leader. I think it goes without saying that if you’re currently struggling with the relationship because you’ve violated one of these rules, you need to approach them and apologize. If you don’t want them to be your leader, then you need to find a different church or business. But you’ve got to start somewhere and the best place to start is by showing them you’ve got their back. To summarize today’s podcast, here are the points listed:

  1. Support their vision, mission, and leadership
  2. Don’t do anything that they’ll have to apologize for.
  3. Listen, but be ready to lead up when necessary.
  4. Always support them publicly.
  5. Ask them for their time and come prepared with questions.

Thank you for listening to the Tactical Ministry podcast. Remember:

We are only one decision away from being a better leader. Find that next step. Embrace that next step! Become that next step.

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