Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted with permission from Turnaround by Jason K. Allen. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing. The book is available wherever Christian books are sold.
The most important leadership role you will ever have is the one you’re in right now. Or, to put it more succinctly, lead where you are.
By most any definition, I was a young man in a hurry. There is just something about being in your twenties that predestines restlessness. My mentor, Pastor Steve Lawson, sensed my restlessness and counseled me: “Jason, the most important job you will ever have is the one you have right now.” His words registered on my heart before they landed in my ear. I still remember where we stood, by his administrative assistant’s desk, when he spoke those words to me.
His instinct was right. I needed to hear his admonition. Not only did I need it, but in some ways I wanted it. I sensed that my unsettledness was unhealthy. I purposed that day, due to both the apparent spiritual principle and the obvious practical benefits, to live by those words. I encourage you to do the same.
Leadership isn’t just in your future. It’s in your present. Scripture teaches that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and even the most assured plans should come with a deo volente—if the Lord wills.
Along those lines, do not romanticize your future or daydream about how to seize it. Give your best energies to the position you currently hold. In leadership you are called to a stewardship of the present. And, in a very real sense, you will never have a greater stewardship than the one you have right now. We must work to maintain this mentality. Our self-help, self-improvement generation teaches us to strive for, to even connive for, our own betterment. But that is not the way of the faithful leader.
As an example, some have noted my father’s generation viewed work like an escalator. You get on at a lower floor, remain faithful in your position and to your employer over the long haul, and, as the decades pass, you will ride the escalator up to higher floors.
My generation views employment more like a jungle gym, hopping from place to place, always scouring the horizon for self-advancement and never missing an opportunity for self-promotion. The leader’s strategy for career advancement ought not resemble American Ninja Warrior.
Thus, to lead in the future, make sure you lead in the present. Do not spend your time refining your personal leadership philosophy; go with what you know now. Pursue faithfulness in leadership, not success. The world does not need more hypothetical leaders; it needs more actual ones.
In fact, Jesus commended such faithfulness, promising, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much” (Luke 16:10). Vocationally, your today is more important than your tomorrow. The fastest way to a higher office is to excel in the one you occupy now.
Generally, those who serve most faithfully—who prove themselves indispensable to their organization’s health—will not be overlooked. Such faithfulness is a rare trait, and employers work to retain such individuals. Indispensable employees usually do not have to fear pink slips and rarely must ask for pay raises.
I can assure you, if you faithfully lead where you are, it is unlikely you will be overlooked by man. And I can promise you, with the words of Christ in mind, you will not be overlooked by God.