Often the idea of leadership evokes thoughts of stages, bright lights, teaching, or even preaching in front of a crowd. However, I recently learned a new concept: leading from the side. When I became a pastor’s wife, it was a pure shock to my system. I went from a woman who was constantly seeking new ways to challenge my leadership abilities to feeling barely being noticed. No longer being the front person in leadership was a difficult shift for me. But leading from the side, as you will learn shortly, can be a powerfully influential and necessary part of God’s plan.
I believe these concepts apply to more than just pastor’s wives; they apply to anyone who works beneath some kind of leader in the spotlight, which is a lot more people than most would think. We all have positions in life that call us to be second. However, not many people place importance on leading from this second position. Leading from the side can not only grow you, but guide both you and those above you to great success. Here’s three important virtues that I’ve learned while leading in the background.
1. Submit in love.
Submit: That awful word that no one dares approach. But if there is anything that makes it an easier concept to chew, it’s that submission comes from God himself. Within the Trinity, each person of God mutually submits to the other in order to form a perfectly functioning relationship. Submission is a huge win through the perfect harmony that it creates when it is done Biblically. In leadership, mutual submission to one another in love and respect creates a bond of trust that will make an impression on those around us. Whether your environment is a classroom, congregation, or team, empower those God has appointed to lead, while you lead from the side.
To be perfectly clear, submission doesn’t affect who you are. In submission, we learn to let who we are grow while also empowering someone else. I am still my confident, intelligent self, but I practice allowing my love and respect for someone else overflow in an act of uplifting someone else.
2. Find strength.
Strength is often synonymous with power, but strength can also be the absence of power. In strength, we demonstrate the ability to withhold anger and instead administer grace. In strength, we control our words, persevere in hard times, and survive the deserts. Strength is seen in Sampson, not just when he slays animals with his bare hands, but when he demonstrates the patience to wait for the right timing to bring down the Temple. If you’re leading from the side, strength is necessary to stay persistent in the difficult times.
When leading from the side, strength is crucial to the success of the team. You may find that there are days when you provide the strength for that person to move forward. You give them Godly wisdom and encouragement when they want to throw in the towel. You give the pep talk that motivates them to go the extra mile. None of this is possible without strength, the self-discipline to know when to say what when needed. Other times it is the strength to balance them out, or call them out when they stray from their path.
3. Ask for humility.
The most important of them all. Philippians 2:3 says that we should “...do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility, value others above yourselves.” Value my husband, value my boss, my co-workers, my (fill in the blank) as better than myself. This is what God’s Word has called us to do: lead from the side, allowing the focus to shift to others and flourishing outside of the spotlight.
Obviously, these are all things we need to ask God for. We cannot earn them or learn them apart from the guiding, convicting, and filling of the Holy Spirit. Leading from the side can be tricky and frustrating, but people watch you, whether you notice or not. You have to take on that position with the confidence and conviction of submission, strength, and humility. And even if you spend most of your days going unnoticed, it’s the one day that you exemplify great character that carries the weight of your influence.