5 Ways to Excel as a Young Leader

5 Ways to Excel as a Young Leader

Tim Parsons | February 21, 2014

1 Timothy 4:12 says: “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

This Scripture speaks to me. It says, “don’t let…” – that means that we have control over whether someone looks down on us because we’re young. It’s not up to chance, and it definitely matters, what you do and how you conduct yourself. When I realized this simple fact, it completely changed the way I worked and lived.

When I was 21 years old, I was given my first real shot at leadership. I was hired as an Assistant General Manager at a full service hotel in my hometown. This meant that I was the guy in charge during the evenings and weekends at a multi-million dollar organization. More recently, in my early 30’s, I was a regional dean of a college where I had oversight of 6 college campuses making up over 250 faculty members and over 3,000 students. At the age of 36, I am now an Executive Pastor at a church that averages around 1,100 in weekend worship attendance.

Throughout all of these ‘high-level’ positions, there are 5 things that I’ve identified that gave me success even though I was a young, and often inexperienced leader:

1. Make your boss look good.

He or she hired you. They had belief in you before you really ever proved yourself. And, one of your roles is to make him/her look good. The best way to do this is to do your job. Be excellent in what you do. Don’t settle for sub-par work – even if you don’t think it’s ‘your job.’ And once you’ve done your job, look to do the little things that others aren’t doing.

Early in my career, it was always about the ‘next thing.’ What job would I apply for next? What company would I work for next? What position would I go after next? And, when you make your boss ‘look good,’ you’re making it easier for him/her to help you find the ‘next thing.’ You’ll be able to tap into their network and they’ll be able to give you a recommendation that will set you apart from the rest.

2. Do what your boss asks you to do FIRST.

This was probably one of the best lessons I ever learned, but it was not always easy to do. I would have a boss stop by my office and ask if I could run a report or address an issue, and I would find myself conflicted between what I was working on (which usually had a deadline of its own) and doing what my boss just asked me to do. I have found that stopping what I am doing to take care of what my boss is asking me to do has never ended badly.

Often, those that lead us have a much different perspective than we do. They understand the bigger picture. They know what’s coming next. They have more experience than we do. All of these things play into the reasons why we should do what our boss asks us to do first. There are always reasons they are asking us to do the task; we should strive to make their requests our priority.

3. Be a servant.

This one somewhat goes with number one, but at its core it really has to do with your mindset while you’re ‘on the clock.’ Especially when we’re early on in our careers, it is vitally important that we understand the fact that it is not about us. This means that we may have to take on tasks that we don’t like. Or, we might find ourselves helping others that aren’t directly related to our area of responsibility. Regardless of what it is, if we are trying to serve others, while accomplishing the job we were hired to do, then we will be happier and will have more longevity in leadership.

4. Make learning your responsibility.

In other words, don’t wait for others to train you or contribute to your knowledge of what needs to be done. Take the initiative to learn what needs to be learned. Ask good questions. Read industry publications. Seek out someone to mentor you, and always be prepared with questions when you have meetings with your boss. Leaders never have enough time to invest in the people they lead, and training is often missing in many organizations. Make it your goal to drive this process. There’s nothing a leader likes more than an employee who takes learning seriously and views it as a part of their job description.

5. Be professional at all times.

There will be times when you get upset about something at work. Don’t go off. Don’t post things on social media about your boss or place of employment. Don’t get caught up in gossip. Don’t find yourself collaborating with someone that you know is an instigator of trouble. Rather, take the high road. Don’t give in to the temptation to take out your frustrations in these ways – either directly or passively.

Tim Parsons is currently the Executive Pastor at First Assembly Community Ministries in Lafayette, IN.  Tim is also a gifted teacher, speaker, and consultant. You can check out his blog on leadership at and follow him on Twitter. He is married to the love of his life, Consuela, and they have 3 children.

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