Look Like A Leader

Part 1 (an excerpt from our new book, Getting Your Church To Sing)

We have been told since we were little children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” We’ve been told not to take candy from them, not to follow them, and you might have even been instructed to scream, “Stranger Danger,” if someone you don’t know is trying to get you to do something. It’s all a part of our well established cultural tradition not to trust people we don’t know. Even as an adult, if someone came up to you and said, “Hey, follow me down this alley, I want to show you something,” you most likely wouldn’t do it because we as a species do not naturally trust people. 

When we forget this powerful aspect of our humanity, we will often struggle to get people on board. People have questions that must be answered before they will be willing to participate. The first questions that people have whenever they walk into a new situation are, “What’s going on, and who is in charge?” We have a built-in need to know who the leader is, however, most churches do not provide this information anywhere other than on their website.  

I often ask the worship teams that I mentor, “Could a visitor tell who the leader is? Without fail everyone looks at me with a sudden sense of awe and wonder, because it’s a question they’ve usually never thought about before. Of course, they all know who the leaders are because they are on the team. The Pastors and most of the core attenders know as well, but what about everyone else? Chances are high that they don’t know, simply because we have not told them verbally and it’s usually not visually obvious. 

By far, the easiest and most effective thing you can do to help everyone know who the leader is would be to simply take thirty seconds and identify yourself verbally. Say your name, your position in the church, and what your task is. “Hello, my name is Susan. I’m honored to be on staff here as the worship leader and so my job this morning is to lead you to worship. So let’s stand up together and declare this to the Lord.” If something is different that day or the usual people are out of town, everyone in the church will wonder why things are not the same. It’s pretty easy to let people know what’s going on by saying something like, “Good morning. My name is John. Our usual worship leader Susan is out on vacation this week and she asked me if I would take her place this morning in leading you to worship. So stand up with us and …” Every time that my wife and I were guest worship leaders, I would always take the time to answer the obvious question everyone had by saying, “Good morning my name is Steve, this is my wife Shawn and we have the honor of being your guest worship leaders today…”

Special care should also be given if you have multiple people with the title of Pastor, as people don’t know the details of your church structure and will assume that the first person they meet with the title of ‘pastor’ is ‘The Pastor’ and not one of many pastors. “Good morning, I’m Pastor John, one of the associate pastors here at such and such church, and I’m here to get you up to speed on what’s going on around our church …” While this process may seem silly, and in all actuality is not necessary for a portion of your church, it is vitally important to the new people. Keep it short and clear, but do it every time you get up in front of people. Great worship leaders introduce themselves.

People also want to be able to identify who the leader is visually, as confusion can occur when it’s difficult to find the leader so they can provide details in moments of uncertainty. Basically, when you need to know which way to go or are looking for assurance of what is going on, you want to be able to find your leader quickly. This is why most every church has an elevated platform in the front. Some churches will go even further and will use lighting to spotlight the leader or will use video cameras and screens to project their faces on the wall. Unfortunately, this kind of exposure can make the people leading feel uncomfortable. Standing out as the leader wars against another strong human emotion, the one that wants to fit in. 

When we look to the Bible for guidance, we find that the old testament word for ‘leader’ literally means, “one who goes down the road ahead.” While our insecurities would pull us into the middle, our call demands our forward position. Again, we must remember that the reason we are out in front is because people need leadership. Conversely, there are some who love the spotlight and actually crave the position that others dread. We must always remember our purpose so that our emotions don’t drag us into trouble. We are in front in order to lead others to worship, not to be applauded, and not to hide. The sweet spot of effectiveness is to be comfortable in front of people to lead them. Everyone will approach from one side or the other, but finding that point of correct leader position will greatly help your people.

To further illustrate what we are talking about, as a fun exercise, I would encourage you to look at pictures of other worship teams and guess who the leader is. Try and figure out the leadership structure, then hop on their church website to check and see if you’re right. It’s a good exercise to remind yourself of how everyone else sees your church and the process that they take to try and figure things out. 

In your guessing, pay attention to how you come to the conclusions you do. Much of it will come down to where you stand, how well people are dressed, who is leading the song, and even people’s age or physical characteristics. Notice how the perception you develop, creates its own reality in your mind. I especially want you to note that whether these conclusions are correct or not, the reality is that everyone is doing it, all the time. 

A decision to invest money with someone will ultimately come down to whether or not the person seems trustworthy. If they appear to be the slightest bit shady, then we might hold back. Our opinion of that person doesn’t change whether or not they are indeed worthy of our trust, but our perspective creates a reality so powerful that it takes control of our actions. 

Another example would be letting someone else park your vehicle. Before you hand over your car keys to the valet you will look for all the signs of legitimacy. You look for a stand, that the proper clothing is being worn, the appearance of the person being old enough to drive, and a thousand other little things that give you a sense of confidence (that you could probably rate from 0-10 in your mind). People are doing that with you every time you lead. 

The question we must answer is, do I look like a leader that people will follow? For some people, for a multitude of reasons, they just look like a leader. Though it seems unfair, and maybe it is unfair, looking like a leader just comes naturally as a product of who they are. Like it or not, right or wrong, all humans have built-in and learned tendencies to follow certain people. Some of these naturally occurring traits will work for you and others may be stacked against you. 

Some of these things about you can easily be changed, however, some are completely beyond your control. For instance, I’m very tall (6’ 6” which is almost 2 meters for our metric friends). When I walk in the room it commands attention, simply because I stick out. My natural countenance makes me appear to be very serious and intense. I have a loud voice. I’m a male. Throw that all together and I can naturally get people to listen to me, at least for a little while. That may seem unfair, because in certain situations that works to my advantage. However, my intimidating nature creates problems in other situations, where I actually have to work hard to temper my appearance or use leading behaviors to help shape other people’s perception of me. Sometimes that works, but other times it can be difficult to overcome who other people think I am. 

Though you can’t change certain aspects about yourself, you can control many aspects of your leadership that have a dramatic impact on the people you are trying to lead. Stay tuned for more tips on what you can do to help others follow you or get all the information now by purchasing your copy of the book, Getting Your Church To Sing on Amazon.com and on iBooks.