The Placement of Leaders

Today, let me return to my friend, Chenaniah. We find him mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:22. He was the chief of the Levites and he was “in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful.”

Chenaniah was skillful. He probably wasn’t the best singer, although I am sure he could belt out a tune or two. He may not have been lead chair with the lyre or tambourine, but he knew how to get the best sound out of his choir and orchestra. How?

Placement. Today, we talk about another leadership essential called “Placement.”

Some years ago, I was singing in an a capella group that included those who sang bass, baritone, tenor, and high tenor. I had the dubious distinction of singing the upper registers, which meant I had to hit some elusive notes that were made only for female sopranos singing opera.

I remember one rehearsal when our notes constantly went flat. One section of music constantly escaped our ability to find the notes. While the bass was attempting to find his part hidden in the cellar, I was missing mine by a mile. Just then, our director mercifully halted the punishing song that was beginning to resemble the sounds of two sparring tomcats in an alley.

He rearranged our positions around the one microphone that stood in the middle. I was separated from the bass singer (which I am sure he was thankful for) and the tenors were grouped together rather than apart. After two or three switches, we began to sound like cherubim and seraphim!


Don’t ignore the placement of people. And how do you find out where they are best placed? Simple. Listen to the music. If your staff or church is beginning to sound like an alley fight, move some people around. It may not be an overnight success, but eventually, things settle down. When the music is dissonant, it may not mean that people are wrong, it just may mean they are wrongly slotted!

For example, I have worked with many different leaders, each one with their own range of giftedness. In the parlance of a horse rancher, you will have stallions, mares, and geldings. If we are afraid of horses, you’ll want old gray mares. They are safe. But a stallion, on the other hand, is dangerous, and if he is put with certain other horses, he will make trouble. Stallions are harder to ride, but they are the ones who will win the races, not gray mares. The mares will stabilize the herd but they will not give the ministry the lift it needs to soar. Stallions are risk takers and skittish at the gates, but they are the ones that will move you forward; leaders must know how to ride them. They can be tamed but they will never settle into being an old gray mare. They can be tamed but they have to run! You never put stallions with compliant middle managers in charge of them. You are asking for a fight, or you will develop passive stallions that have been neutered of their greatest potential. It all depends what you want … safety or fruitfulness. Most, I hesitate to say, want safety. We have nice churches and safe managers, but we don’t win many races.

When I see a staff person who is creating a stir, it might not be that he or she is a rebel. It might be that the arena they’re in is getting too small. On the other hand, when a person is a micro manager, it might mean that they are more logistically inclined than vision driven. Slot them correctly and the music will return.

Much of this comes by trial and error. This process can be puzzling and frustrating, but don’t give up! Remember that it hardly ever happens that a puzzle piece fits in on your first attempt to complete the picture you saw on the box top. It may take several tries before it finds it rightful place and adds to the overall unfolding picture. Don’t give up your vision. Rearranging some pieces might be better than throwing the whole puzzle out and buying a new one.

Of course, the sooner these wrong placements are recognized, the better. So when the music goes flat, check and see if a high tenor is deafening the bass singer. Otherwise you will never hear the sounds of the viola over the sounding trumpets or the harp over the crashing cymbals.

Chenaniah knew how to move his orchestra and singers around so there was balance in the music.

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