Is It Possible To Lead When You Are Not The Top Dog?

The answer is a resounding yes.

The story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel chapter 17 is a great example of leadership. David was just a teenager and he managed to have influence over the king and change the direction of a nation.

Here are ten leadership principals that we can learn from David.

  • Seek to understand then be understood. – David understood Saul’s problem. Understanding means that you feel the same emotions that your leader feels. Many people that serve in youth and or children’s ministry do not feel that their pastor understands them. The key to influencing some one that out ranks you is for you to allow yourself to be influenced by them. (1 Sam 17:24 -27)
  • You Will Get Shot At. – As soon as David started to lead his older brother took a shot at him. If you are getting shot at it just means that you are leading. Don’t take it personal. You need to develop thick skin and a soft heart. It’s rare that the person shooting at you is the enemy. (1 Samuel 17:28)
  • Keep Your Motives Pure. – “Who is this uncircumcised philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” If there is any hint of self-promotion you lose all credibility.
  • Lead by Asking Questions. – Don’t act like a know it all. Learn from what David did. He was asking questions that he already knew the answer to. (1 Samuel 17:30)
  • Know when the door is Open. – Pastors are busy people. Don’t try to force your idea. You know that the door is open when your leader is asking questions. (1 Samuel 17:31)
  • Don’t try to “lead up” unless you are willing to fight the giant. – It’s easy to identify problems. It’s another thing to do the work it takes to solve them.
  • Be Confident. – Don’t talk about things you know nothing about. Lead from a position of strength. David used his slingshot because it gave him confidence.
  • Do it Afraid. – There is going to be an element of fear when you “lead up”. The more scared we are of a work or a calling the surer we can be that we have to do it.
  • Think positive thoughts and say positive words. (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
  • Get Results. – This story would not be here if David had lost the battle. You will make mistakes and even fail sometimes but you just have to keep fighting till you win.

What are some lessons you have learned when leading from the middle of then pack?

5 thoughts on “Is It Possible To Lead When You Are Not The Top Dog?

  1. Becci says:

    I think another key element is to keep respecting and honouring those above you. David didn’t once dishonour the King, despite seeing that they weren’t doing what needed to be done! It’s a hard lesson to learn but goes hand in hand with understanding and keeping your motives pure.

  2. David L. Barnes says:

    Great principles. Most of my ministry experience over the past 35 years has been serving another man’s vision. I highly recommend a book that will help anyone who is in this position: “Leading from the Second Chair: Serving your church, fulfilling your role, and realizing your dreams” by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson. Here is the description given about the book at
    “They say it’s lonely at the top. And it can be even lonelier when you are almost at the top. Church leaders who hold “second chair” positions are under tremendous pressure. They are expected to do their jobs and provide leadership but defer to the top leader, too. It’s a demanding balancing act. How can they lead effectively while serving under someone else’s leadership?
    Leading from the Second Chair offers an invaluable resource to leaders who serve in second (and third and fourth) chair roles, enabling them to become more productive, proactive, and fulfilled. The book reveals the paradoxes of second chair leadership. These leaders must be subordinate to the top leader yet lead in their own right. They should be deep in their expertise but wide in perspective. And they must be content in their jobs yet remain enthusiastic about their dreams for the future.
    Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson share their own and others’ experiences of failures and successes in this vital role. They offer support and practical advice for reshaping the way second chair leaders can serve well and improving the overall performance of their church or organization.”

    • Super Church says:

      Thank you David. How true, the balancing act that we walk. It is so good to know that we are not the only one dealing with some of the issues our “place” gives us.

  3. Jeanne Bowser says:

    Wow! Good blog Mark. I got a lot to think about right now ..planning for our first Prayer/Worship Camp here at our church. You’re right; it’s a bit scary now with all the little details I have to think about, especially with media and such. BUT GOD!:) I’m thankful because He told me to do this so my confidence is in Him. I had to learn just yesterday to be influenced by my Pastor and see things from her point of view; it wasn’t easy, but I passed that test. Organization is not my strength, so I’m trying to stay focused on task at hand for the camp along with my other responsibilities. Thank you for your post! It came at the right time.

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