When Leaders Need a Leader: How to Be Led Well


“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7, esv)

I’ve always needed someone to help guide me. I needed this even when I was blind to it. I thought I could be a lone ranger with Jesus, but it turns out my heart, family, and ministry is more of a community project than I originally thought. 

How to be led well? 

Truthfully, I’m still learning, but the four steps below helped place my heart in a position to move from resistance and isolation to receiving and friendship with my mentor, Scotty Smith.

Step #1: Get Low

I had mentors and coaches before Scotty, but my heart never cracked open to receive all the possibilities of wisdom and grace because I was still behind a mantra of You can come near, but you can’t come in.

Then my inner world began to crumble. I see now it was the grace of God to lower me to a place where my posture became receiving rather than performing and pretending.   

Step #2: Listen, Pray, and Ask

My relationship with Scotty began at a retreat where I was intrigued by his life narrative of hurt, religious performancism, the goodness of Christ, and who he wanted to be in God’s inexhaustible love. All I knew was I wanted to be a similar sort of leader and man. I wanted to be, and still desire to be, caught up in the stream of grace, growing more astonished by the gospel and learning what it means to be free—though I am still not yet as free as Jesus desires me to be. 

At that retreat, I felt God speaking to my heart: This could be a mentor for you. 

So I listened, and I prayed, asking for an open, surrendered heart more than a particular request to be granted. (Important to note: this initial intuition was supported by our theological alignment.) Then I asked Scotty to be my mentor, setting clear parameters on my expectations. 

Step #3: Jump in the Water

To be led well, you have to get in the water. All the way in. Both people in the mentoring relationship have to be willing to wade into the relational values of vulnerability and honesty. I learned I am able to be increasingly known by those around me as I am coming more alive to the love of God for me. 

So ask the questions. Make the confession. Speak the weakness. And the grace and mercy of God will become the rescuing water in which you swim. 

Step #4: Accept the Mentorship as a Real Relationship

Nowadays Scotty and I have as many quick phone calls as we do long strategic ones. Half of the time when he calls he launches into whatever is on his mind. The other half, he inquires into my day. This is not because he only cares about me half of the time. This is because we are in a real relationship. 

A mentor doesn’t solve your problems or absolve your pain. A prized mentor walks with you through the complexities of life. 

They are not perfect. They are real. Like you.

They are graciously positioned toward you and your heart and your pain. They will guide you, not back to themselves, but on to the one who is perpetually available and eternally remains the ultimate source of loving welcome and impactful wisdom. 

searching for grace

russ mastersonRuss Masterson is a husband, dad, pastor, and writer in Marietta, Georgia. He serves as the senior pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church of Marietta. He is the co-author (with Scotty Smith) of Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, A Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul. Visit him at www.russmasterson.cc. 

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