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Leading from the Middle

Membership Level Guest

Author/Source: Mark Harper

Topic: Leadership, Influence

David wasn't always the top dog. Mark Harper shares five lessons from David's life on how to lead from the middle.

Is it possible to lead when you are not the top dog?

The answer is a resounding yes. Leadership doesn’t always start at the top, but it always manages to affect the people at the top.

The story of David and Goliath is a great example of leading from the middle. David wasn't even enlisted in the army, and yet he managed to have influence over the king and change the direction of a nation.

Here are five leadership principles that we can learn from David:

  1. Seek to Understand and Then Be Understood.

    David understood Saul's problem. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26, NIV) Understanding is more than intellectual knowledge. Understanding means that you feel the same emotions that your leader feels. Many people who serve in youth and or children’s ministry do not feel that their pastor understands them. The key to getting someone to understand you is for you to understand them. The key to influencing someone who outranks you is for you to allow yourself to be influenced by them.

  2. You Will Get Shot At.

    As soon as David started to lead, his older brother took a shot at him (1 Samuel 17:28).  If you try to lead from the middle, people are going to shoot at you. If you are getting shot at, it just means that you are leading. Don’t take it personally. You'll need to develop thick skin and a soft heart. How did David respond to his brother? He ignored him and kept his focus on the enemy. It’s rare that the person shooting at you is the enemy.

  3. Keep Your Motives Pure.

    If there is any hint of self-promotion, you lose all credibility.

  4. Lead by Asking Questions.

    Don’t act like a know-it-all. Learn from what David did. He was asking questions that he already knew the answer to. “He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer.” (1 Samuel 17:30, NLT) Be a problem solver, but don’t just come to your leader with one answer. I find that pastors like multiple-choice tests.

  5. Know When the Door Is Open.

    Pastors are busy people. Don’t try to force your idea. Wait until he is asking questions. “Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him” (1 Samuel 17:31, NLT). You know that the door is open when your leader is asking questions.

There you have it. Five leadership principles we can learn from David.

How do you lead from the middle? What works for you and what doesn’t work?


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