Leading Up


Leadership is hard. That isn’t news.

It is hard to lead people. It is hard to lead followers. It is hard to lead those under you or those who work next to you on the organizational chart (you know, the ones you can’t make do something).

It is really hard to lead those over you, to lead up.

Yet, to get anywhere in leadership, you must learn to lead up.


The person above you probably controls your budget, your salary, your benefits and if what you want to do gets done.

The person above you potentially controls a lot.

So, to accomplish what you want to accomplish at work and in your life, you need to lead them well.

This is especially true for guys who want to plant churches.

If this is you, you will at some point, find yourself working under someone. Someone that you are smarter than, someone that you are more relevant than, someone that you are more biblical than, someone that has sold out to risks and is now just collecting a paycheck.

Now, you won’t say these things to them.

But deep down, you know they “lost it.”

They now look and sound like the guy from Up. 

So how do you lead up? Here are 5 ways to lead up and accomplish what God has called you to without losing your leadership. Because don’t mistake this: if you don’t lead up well, you will have a hard time leaving your current spot to get the role you want. 

  1. Affirm and back their vision. Right now, if you aren’t the leader at the top of the organizational chart, you are a follower. If you can’t follow well, you can’t lead well. What if you don’t support their vision? Unless it isn’t biblical, you chose to be there. You need to be submissive to that. As long as it isn’t heretical, just different from what you would do, follow well. But you know better. You are an entrepreneur who God has called to something else. I know. But wait. Affirm them as the leader. Believe it or not (see #5), you will need them in the future.
  2. Be patientYour timing is not God’s timing. I knew when I was 21 that I would one day plant a church. I didn’t know where or when, but I knew. It was when I was 29 in a state I had never set foot in before. Those 8 years were hard, sometimes painful, but they were formative. Be in the moment. Seek to learn what you can. If you aren’t in charge, relish that. Prepare for when you will be. Watch. Listen. Ask questions. Seek out mentors. Read books. Be ready for when God says “Go.”
  3. Risk when the time is right. This is a timing and heart issue. I’ve watched countless guys say “Go” and it was terrible timing for them, their families and the church they left. Can God overcome anything and call anyone at anytime? Yes. God is also wise and doesn’t always call us to the stupidest thing we could do. If you think, “Is this stupid? That must be God’s will for my life.” That is a terrible way to discern that. But lots of people equate crazy risk with stupid. Don’t put your family in a bind. Don’t put the church you are leaving in a bind. Remember, the way you leave a church is how they will remember you. They will forget everything else you did.
  4. Be open and honest. Talk to those above you about what God has placed on your heart. What if they fire you? You don’t want to be there then. This also shows if you feel called or if you think planting or being the lead guy just sounds fun.
  5. Don’t leave unless they back you. The first question I ask a church planter who wants money, people, support or resources from Revolution Church is, “Does the church you just left support you? Are they giving you anything?” I’m very cautious of the guy who says “No” and then has a story or reasons why not. Is it always their fault? No. But to me that is a sign, a red flag that often reveals a character issue.


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  1. Pingback: Essentials of Church Planting: Leading and Learning- Dads on Mission Digest – Glen Writes

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