Be the Elephant in the Room

JoAnn Johnson | May 21, 2018

Sometimes leadership is awkward. Being the only female, young leader, or person of color in an organization can be challenging. Your presence on a team can be "the elephant in the room." Everyone knows it, but few know how to address it.

I remember the first time I showed up to a prayer meeting and being a twenty-two-year-old female, surrounded by men mostly over the age of fifty, it felt like walking into a party I wasn’t invited to. Here’s three things you can do if you find yourself as the elephant in the room.

Do good work. Focus your efforts on leading and doing good work. Let your abilities speak for themselves. Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gifts make room for him.” The position you have now is the result of a leader or manager seeing something in you and giving you an opportunity. Do your job well over time and the doors for greater influence and opportunity will open. If you are held back because of your age, gender or ethnicity, don’t give up. God has a way of blessing faithfulness and persistence, but, you may have to wait a little longer for it.

Give grace and be patient. Cultural and generational differences have the potential for misunderstandings. Give grace and be patient if others offend you. People have assumed I was the church admin or the pastor’s spouse. I have a choice, be offended or be gracious in my response to their mistake. If you are trying to change an organization or culture, recognize it doesn’t happen overnight. Focus on what you have the power to change. Celebrate any little victories!

Finally, be you! It can be tempting to try to be something you’re not, just to fit in, like taking up golf just so you can be invited to charity golf tournaments. Just be you. Be the person God created you to be. There’s a reason God has you where He does. It may not always be comfortable, but if it’s God’s will for you to be there, He’s up to something.

So, keep walking into rooms and uncomfortable situations. Break the mold, the glass ceiling, the barrier! Why? Because organizations need you. They need the diversity of thought to address the challenges of ministry in our increasingly diverse communities. And, because the next generation is watching. They are watching to see if we can walk into organizations and change them. Be you who you are, no matter how different that is from those around you. Be the elephant in the room.

JoAnn Johnson serves as the Student Ministries Director for the Southern California Network of the Assemblies of God, providing leadership to the youth and young adults pastors at 470 churches. For more information visit

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