Biblical Principles for New Managers

“I’ve recently been promoted…. I’m finding the transition challenging, especially since I need to manage my former colleagues. I understand why it’s hard for them to respect me—in some cases, they know more than I do! What’s the best way to approach this?” - TGC


be more concerned about how you’re going to treat your team members than how they’re going to treat you. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi to consider others’ needs as more important than their own (Phil. 2:3–4). This was, of course, based on the humility of Jesus (Phil. 2:5–8).

If you focus your efforts on treating team members with dignity and respect, and build on their strengths rather than harp on their weaknesses, they’ll respond to your servant leadership.

Some people are not going to respect you, regardless. But most people respect being treated with respect. I’ve only been a manager for a couple of years, but some advice on what has worked well for me so far (and what I’ve observed work well for those I’ve reported to)…

  • Don’t hide your knowledge gaps: telling people you want to understand their work better and want to learn from them is a win-win. Their value in your eyes is increased, and your competence to understand how your decisions impact them is increased. And they know it is. They know there’s a ton you don’t know about what they’re daily work is like. One of the oldest management gripes in the book is that leadership is “out of touch.” So I say, own that. Be open that there’s a lot you don’t know about their work and that you understand that means your decision making needs to be cautious and well informed.
  • Listen: This is a bit redundant with the previous, but a different piece of it. Asking everyone what they think of a decision you’re considering doesn’t weaken your authority as “the decider.” You do want to word it right. You’re not taking a vote, so it’s not “how many in favor of…” Avoid that. The question is: “I need to make a decision about X. What do you think of this option vs that one? What’s the impact if we…? Any other ideas?” And you separate the decision making from the info gathering—which is only natural. You’re going to have to think over what you’ve heard. So you come back later with your decision.
  • Empower: It sounds like a biz school fad, but it really isn’t. Work to make those under you more effective. This is not “getting more out of them.” Rather, this often looks like “making their work easier,” but if you’re getting the same results, “easier” = more efficient. That’s a good thing. And they’ll like the “easier” part. We all do. There’s no guarantee of “respect,” but making those “down the chain of command” more effective is your job. Some of them will definitely respect you for doing it. … plus, if you find a way to make outcome A easier, you’re in a much better position to say “Now lets add outcome B.”

Of course, none of the above is going to help much if you’re working in a place with a diseased leadership culture. In that case, my advice is find a place where helping people thrive in their work is valued and/or where questioning and understanding the “why” is valued.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.