For Young Leaders: The Artform of Waiting

An inheritance gained prematurely will not be blessed ultimately. Proverbs 20:21

When I was younger, I could never understand people who talked about waking up at 6am without an alarm clock. I would think to myself, “I must be different.” Yet today, as with most days, I was awake at 6:04am without an alarm clock.

Age and experience change you. They should anyway. The challenging thing about experience: is you can’t teach it, YouTube it, or buy it. Experience only comes via experience.

This must have been what was going on in Solomon’s mind when we wrote the Proverb above. An inheritance, though a good thing, can be dangerous if it is not ready to be received. This principle readily applies to “leadership inheritance”.

Gifted young leaders, regardless of field or occupation, are especially prone to want a leadership inheritance they’re not ready for. I should know. I was in my late 20s the first time my title read “Lead”. I was competent, trained, gifted, successful and entirely over-confident. My wisdom bank was just starting to accrue a balance.

But the balance was not big enough to sustain me long term. I was ready on paper. I was ready on stage. I was ready in passion. I was not ready in my soul. I wasn’t emotionally intelligent enough. I knew how to create programs and accomplish tasks, but I didn’t know how to lead people.

By the grace of God, I didn’t screw up terribly. Many of my friends and colleagues were not so fortunate to endure a “premature inheritance” without major wreckage.

I want to encourage young leaders with the ambition to lead at another level. I love your desire to influence, do good, make a difference and fulfill your heart’s desire – whether in business, ministry, or some other field. I want to see your dreams come true! Which is why I urge you: Grow in the Art of Waiting. AKA: Be Patient. The words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are especially helpful:

“Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespected hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them.”

  • Be slow to accept a leadership inheritance you might be skilled and gifted enough for, but not tested enough for.
  • Stick it out in a struggling organization.
  • Respectfully and faithfully serve a leader you might be more gifted than.
  • Be aware of the false narratives our culture sells you. You don’t have to have everything you want now.
  • Don’t exclusively take advice from your peers, instead find an older, wiser voice to show you areas in your character and leadership where you still need to grow.

Experience and humility teach a leader that the burden of leadership is just as important as the privilege of leadership. Who you want to become is more important than what you want to accomplish. What you do for other people is more important than what other people can do for you.

God is going to do amazing things through you, but He is first interested in what He does in you.

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