How to be a great lieutenant …
In spite of the obsession about making leaders within today’s church, not everyone is called to be a leader. The majority of those who are enabled for leadership are not called to a top leadership role, but rather, are selected to serve as “lieutenants,” important roles of leadership under a primary leader.
Whether it’s in the church, an organization, or a business, there are more lieutenants than generals, and their role and contribution is vital to the body of Christ, an entity, or business.
A sizable portion of these lieutenants are of the “alpha male” type, they’re strong men and women who naturally rise to leadership in most of what they involve themselves in. For some, it can be difficult limiting themselves to the role of “just” a lieutenant, while others thrive in a position that allows them to lead while still being led.
What does it take to be a great lieutenant?
If we search scripture for a model of a lieutenant in the Lord’s work who is a great example we could apply in such positions, we would quickly be drawn to Joshua, who was the assistant to Moses, and would become the leader of Israel after Moses died. I would encourage you to dig into your Bible and read about the life of Joshua. Looking at Joshua’s example of being the assistant, we can see three keys to being a great lieutenant:
1. Committed to obeying and glorifying God. The overarching trait for being a great lieutenant is that, regardless of titles, goals, objectives, opinions, or projects, a great lieutenant is first and foremost committed to obeying God, and bringing glory to Him. Without that, a lieutenant may stray from the mission or not yield to primary leadership. But when he or she is committed to being obedient to God, and their greatest objective is bringing glory to Him, they are enabled to yield their own opinions and desires to the will of God, and direction provided from primary leaders. Joshua was a great lieutenant to Moses because of his commitment to obey and glorify God.
2. Committed to the vision and mission. Chaos ensues when lieutenants attempt to introduce variants to the vision and mission that primary leaders have established. It’s the responsibility of the primary leadership to establish the vision and mission, and then lieutenants assist the primary leaders in executing that vision and mission. This doesn’t mean that lieutenants cannot provide input and counsel regarding vision and mission, but establishing what those are for the whole body, organization, or business isn’t their responsibility. They may have the responsibility of setting vision and mission for ministries within the church, or departments in an organization or business, but those need to align fully with the overarching mission and vision set for the body, entity, or business by primary leaders.
3. Committed to respecting roles. Joshua understood the way things worked: God gave unprecedented access to Himself to Moses, and He would speak to Moses. Moses then spoke to the people on behalf of God, and then Joshua assisted Moses in carrying out all that God commanded. Joshua didn’t question God, nor did he challenge Moses’ role as primary leader. He understood what his position within the people of Israel was, and focused on doing that well. Joshua had a remarkable understanding of this, as was demonstrated when he had become the leader of Israel and God had instructed him to lead the people in taking the city of Jericho. You probably know the story of the battle of Jericho, a city that was protected by a massive wall thought to be impenetrable. God had instructed Joshua to have the people march around the city one time for six days. Then on the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times, after which the priests would blow rams horns and the people would shout, and then the wall would fall down.
Before carrying out God’s battle plan, Joshua is telling the people how God will deliver to them a great victory. Notice an interesting instruction Joshua gave to the people: “Do not shout; do not even talk,” Joshua commanded. “Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!” Joshua 6:10.
Why did Joshua add this need for silence? They weren’t sneaking up on the city, the residents of Jericho would be able to observe their march around the city from atop the wall. Joshua gave this instruction because he knew how easy it would be for lieutenants (and others) to question such a crazy-sounding battle plan.
“We’re going to march for seven days, blow some horns, and then that great wall is just going to fall down? I think Joshua has been out in the sun too long!” is probably what many of them thought. But if they said such things to each other, it could fester more than just doubt and result in the people not being obedient to God’s plan or following Joshua’s leadership. A great lieutenant understands their role of executing the instructions God provides through primary leadership without causing dissension.
Churches, organizations, and businesses all rely on the significant contribution lieutenants make in realizing their visions and achieving their missions; all of them need great lieutenants in order to be successful. If you’re a lieutenant in your church or organization, are you contributing positively? How are you doing at applying these three keys to being a great lieutenant? What do you need to do to become a better lieutenant?