Being the youngest person in the room can be hard. Sometimes it feels like everyone knows exactly what they’re doing while you’re filled with doubt and insecurity on the inside.
I remember when I first started out as a leader. I was at a networking lunch with several leaders from various organizations. I was nervous and hoping to gain some encouragement and insight from some of the other leaders in attendance.
While in line to grab lunch I started up a conversation with another leader. As we got to talking he began asking me a lot of questions about my background. After I shared a little bit about myself he pulled me aside and proceeded to tell me why he thought I had no business being there. He said I was too young and inexperienced to even be in the same room learning and asking questions of leaders like himself. Needless to say I walkout out of that gathering pretty discouraged.
Not long after this I came across a passage of scripture that lifted my spirits and set me on a course to grow and develop as a young leader:
“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.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
In this verse the Apostle Paul encourages Timothy and gives him some advice on how to gain influence as a leader. Here are a few practical ways, regardless of your age, to put Paul’s advice into practice:
1. In Speech
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
This is where many young leaders mess up. Crude language, making fun of people, and sharing gossip might get you a few laughs but it will damage your reputation over the long haul, especially on social media. Most schools and organizations today will check what you’ve posted online as part of their admissions and hiring process. You might not think that’s fair, but it is reality. Before you post something online ask yourself, “Would I want my future employer to see this?” Chances are they will.
2. In Conduct
The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is true. Leaders gain influence by what they do, not what they say they will do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but keep all the promises you make. Follow your leader like you want those you lead to follow you. Go out of your way to help others with their work. Praise your team when things go well and take responsibility when they don’t. These actions will accrue interest into your leadership account.
3. In Love
Be loving and courteous to everyone you interact with. Don’t talk negatively about others. It can get you into a lot of trouble, even when you think the person you’re talking to will keep it to themselves. You don’t know for sure if they might repeat what you shared later or who else might be listening close by. Being kind to people, even when they’re not around or always kind back, paves the way for them to be kind to you in the future.
What you say about people, particularly when they’re not around, says more about you then it does about them. (Click to Tweet)
4. In Faith
“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” – 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT).
Live out your faith in a way that is respectfully to the beliefs of others. Don’t demean someone of a different denomination or world-view. Discover why they believe what they believe. Ask questions to learn more about them, not as a way to trip them up or prove a point. When you take treat someone else’s faith respectfully, chances are they’ll want to hear what you have to say about yours.
5. In Purity
“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” – Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)
Andy Stanley says, “Who and what you listen to will influence you.” Get the people and things out of your life that are filling your mind with negativity and garbage. You may think you’re strong enough to handle it, but eventually it will erode your soul. Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (Matthew 5:8 Msg).
It’s not how old you are, but who you are that will determine your success as a leader. (Click to Tweet)
Our churches and organizations need young leaders now more than ever. Your passion and fresh ideas are crucial to tackling the challenges facing our churches, organizations, and world today. Use these tips to gain influence and make a difference.