What to do When You’re Thrown into a New or Increased Leadership Position

When I was in college I served as a volunteer youth leader at my church. The church at the time had about 125 people attend on a weekly basis. Being a small church the entire leadership team other than the senior pastor were volunteers, which meant the team worked full time jobs.

The youth pastor worked for the Portland School District. He was promoted from a supervisor position into a senior management position. When this first happened he (like I believe most would) was overwhelmed with the significant increase in power and responsibility. He felt like he was thrown into an ocean with hungry sharks and did not know how he was going to survive. I can say he not only survived but thrived in his new position.

I want to share with you 3 things that he did to allow him to be successful in his new position. I also recently went through a job change and wrote about what I did during that busy season in my life in, Two Principles Guaranteed to Help You Successfully Move Through a Transitional Season. When you are thrown into a new or increased leadership position you can:

Lean into God-

The youth pastor leaned more into God during this time. He made sure to stay connected and in close union with God, the source of life. He found the byproduct of placing God 1st in his life was that God gave him an increased level of confidence and favor, and allowed him to be effective in his new position. I believe different seasons require different levels of faith, trust, and grace. Being placed into a new or increased leadership position can be demanding and you will need an extra dose of what only God can provide.

Make necessary adjustments-

Due to the increased responsibilities he had to make adjustment to the amount of time spent volunteering. He had to rely more on his volunteer team. This provided me with the opportunity to step into even more leadership roles. When he was not able to attend activities or the weekly youth night, I was given the responsibility to organize and lead the events. When he was able to attend, I did my best to serve and help so he would be able to spend as much time with the kids as possible.

When you are thrown into a new or increased leadership position you will have to make necessary adjustments to your schedule and time. You might need to stop doing or cut back on participating in some activities or tasks so you can focus on your new position.

Focus on professional development-

It’s too late to prepare yourself when you are thrown into a leadership position. The key to success is being prepared beforehand. However, if you did not prepare completely you can still learn the skills you will need by finding specific resources and coaching that would help you in your new position. Even though he was extremely busy with his new position, he understood that he needed to learn and develop himself. He invested time in professional development.

Questions: What else can a person do to be successful when they are thrown into a new or increased leadership position? What has been your experience?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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34 thoughts on “What to do When You’re Thrown into a New or Increased Leadership Position

  1. Staying organized helps tremendously. For me, that means making lists and setting priorities. It means saying “no” to good things in order to focus on better things. I will stop in the middle of a busy day to reorganize because I know how much more productive I will be when I do that. Also, taking time to rest and rejuvenate is so very important too. There’s just no way to survive sudden increased responsibility if you don’t take care of yourself. This needs to be a habit. I could write a lot on this topic, actually, but I think mostly success is found when you prepare for the sudden increase that you don’t know is coming. In other words, create a strong core that is ready for opportunity when it comes your way.

    • Great addition Kari! Staying organized and focusing on priorities are essential. Rest is such an important one, it allows us to maintain our energy and health. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  2. Just like the guest post I wrote a few months ago. The ability to remain calm when all around is chaos, will demonstrate great leadership qualities.

    The captain must always steady the ship!

  3. Sometimes the “sink or swim” scenario does more for people than anything else. If nothing else it shows what they’re made of in difficult times, which is one of the signals of a good leader in my opinion. Everyone gets tough times, it’s not a matter of if, but of when.

  4. Hi Dan,

    I really think having the trust in others to get things done is a key ingredient for exceptional leadership. When you trust others, they will usually prove you right. The empowerment provided allows them to rise and shine – makes the employee look good and in turn, makes the leaders look good.

  5. When I was thrown (or threw myself!) into the leadership position of writing my blog, all of a sudden I started struggling with things (such as insecurity, procrastination, fear of failure, etc) that were all new to me because of the increased leadership position. It was tempting to quit. But as I’ve continued to blog, I’ve realized that this is an opportunity for growth. In a way, you have to learn how to keep God first in your life all over again because there are new temptations to not keep HIm first that you didn’t have in the old life. So i guess my advice for Christians in new leadership positions is to press into God because it’s so easy for that new leadership position to draw you away from Him.

    • First off, I’m sure glad you persevered and kept blogging. It’s amazing what we can learn about our self’s when moving into or taking on more leadership responsibilities. Thank you for sharing some of your story.

  6. Your post reminds me of the message I heard last Sunday about King Saul. He started out good but the power went to his head.

    We must all remember that in whatever position we are in, it’s because God put us there. We must lean on Him and follow His orders. We are never above Him. We never have enough talent, knowledge or whatever to NOT need God.

    God must remain our foundation and focus.

    Great post.

    • He is a good example of what can happen when we are not ready or prepared for more power/authority. Amen, God must be at the center of our life! Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  7. This sounds like an appropriate and successful response. I think that making necessary adjustments is key. You’ve got to grow and adapt, particularly when you’re thrust into a new situation. You’ve got to be ruthless about adapting.

    • I loved your statement, “You’ve got to be ruthless about adapting.” I totally agree, those with leadership abilities will be able to handle a new or a higher level of power. Thanks for reading and adding to the conversation.

    • It’s an important point we all need to remember and adapt. We can always be preparing for better and new opportunities so we are ready for when they come. Thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

  8. Hey Dan,

    I don’t have much to add on personally. But today I listened at a seminar to some very prominent CEOs of Swedish businesses, entrepreneurs, and a former Justice Minister. I then spoke to them. They all agreed that you must learn through trial and error, and that if you have good self-esteem and believe things’ll be OK, they will be pretty soon.

    Simplified, I know. But the point is that if you believe in your own resourcefulness, you will soon find ways of making it work. You will start focusing on how you can improve the organization and amplify the work atmosphere of your co-workers.

    • Good thoughts Ludvig. I think that begins with our self-talk and what we think about and on. Those things often shape our actions and behaviors. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  9. I’d add Ask For Help. Sometimes we flounder a lot longer in our new position because we don’t want to appear to be weak. Instead, be strong and ask questions and discover the intricacies of the position.

  10. My first thought is to ask those who I’m leading what they’re looking for in a leader. Especially when it’s unexpected, finding out more about what you’re leading can help in shaping your future actions and what you want to focus on. Also it can help in making sure that you’re focusing on the important issues that need to be addressed and not just what you see on the surface.

    • Hello Ryan,

      Great additional thoughts. Being clear on our role and the tasks can definitely help us be effective in the position. Thank you for adding your wisdom to the topic.

  11. Love your thoughts on this Dan. I especially love “lean in on God”. it’s so true what you’ve said about different seasons requiring different levels of faith. i think sometimes we try to wing it, use “old faith” (for lack of better word) in new seasons, never understanding that new levels need new revelation and grace. This has been my life last 2 and half years, adapting to changes after a cross-continental move. Wonderful tips.

  12. Very interesting. I love what you say about making necessary adjustments. In my experience, that’s a great quality to have when you’re moving up the ladder. I was made a manager of a grocery store when I was in high school. It was a big adjustment since i had to watch several people and make sure the store was run properly. Here’s something I did. I watched the other successful managers and tried to emulate what worked well for them. They had to be doing something right – I might as well learn from their experiences.

    • Watching other successful managers is a great addition. I’ve found we can learn from both the success and failures of another person. Thank you for sharing some of your story here.

  13. Good insight. Find competent people to delegate some of the load. I have seen leaders over burden themselves with too many tasks instead of delegating the load. I got caught up into trying to do everything and quickly burned myself out. It was not until I started delegating some of the responsibilities that I began to get some needed relief. I know it is tough when you are thrown in a leadership position to delegate because you are trying to figure things out. But, as soon as possible, you need to start finding competent people you begin to hand off some of the responsibility.

    • I’ve sadly seen the same thing Bernard, many of them being pastors or church leaders. Delegating is essential, whether it’s to paid staff or volunteers. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  14. I’ve found that when I am busy, as I am also a bi-vocational leader, I am better at delegation and sharing responsibilities.

  15. Love the leaning into God point. It’s definitely something I’ve found to be most important when leading. Even more so when you’re thrown into a leadership position you don’t feel prepared for. I guess it’s the thing that helps you to make the right kind of adjustments and keep developing in the role. The 3 points work well together.

  16. Good post, Dan. As you pointed out in #3, it is vital for leaders to get prepared to handle leadership positions. There are good leadership courses and programs out there that will equip one for that.