Increase Your Value: Be Able to Lead Activities on the Spur of the Moment

by | Leading | 6 comments

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” —Albert Einstein


We arrive ready to participate, but the leader doesn’t show up. Although we’re familiar with the activity, we seek someone more qualified to fill in for the leader. Unfortunately, that someone is pointing at us!

You can become the person of value others trust to take over in a pinch.

At a recent writers’ conference, a popular author couldn’t attend. The conference coordinator announced that another author/editor would lead her workshop. I’d awaited the workshop and couldn’t imagine anyone else worthy to teach her material. I considered joining another workshop. I’m glad I didn’t. Dina Sleiman presented the author’s material so well I not only learned much, but I had a new respect for Dina’s expertise.

3 Steps to Become the Person Qualified to Lead Activities at the Last Minute

Step 1. Review Your Involvements.


Image courtesy of CNaene at

Based on our jobs or interests, most of us have a set of activities we haunt with regularity. Look at the leaders in these areas. Could you lead their activities? If not, what would you need to do so?

For example, if you spend much time with outdoor groups, could you guide members in survival if some of you became separated from your leader?

Step 2. Seek training, a mentor, or an apprenticeship.

In the Step 1 example, if you reached the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts, you might have training in wilderness survival. If not, seeking survival training would prepare you to step in to lead outdoor lovers in staying alive.


Businesswoman Pushing Elevator Button1. Experience is a great teacher, but if you’re a writer, you don’t need to write five books to be prepared when your dream editor joins you on the elevator during a conference. You can learn how to write and share a short hook that captures the essence of your story. A prepared one-liner also arms you at social functions when people ask what your book is about. In these cases, you’re stepping in for yourself on the spur of the moment.

2. For Kick-off Sunday, all four preschool Sunday school teachers had to attend the first class to introduce themselves to the children. Four-year-olds poured into our classroom. One teacher had volunteered to teach the first class. In a panic, she arrived unprepared, saying she hadn’t received her teacher’s manual.

MP900049745After blinking in surprise, I told her it was okay. I took over and lead the whole lesson without a glitch. Yes, I had experience teaching Sunday school. But my training as a children’s leader in Bible Study Fellowship equipped me to lead any class of preschoolers. Besides intense Bible study, BSF children’s leaders had to develop a cache of finger plays, children’s hymns, and rhythm and large muscle activities. We also trained to tell age-appropriate stories.

In addition, BSF offered training in how to lead adult Bible studies at a moment’s notice.

3. My husband enjoyed membership in Toastmasters. He entered a Table Topics contests. The contest master gave him a topic and less than a minute to think about it. Then he had to give a two-minute talk. He’s prepared to take over the mike in an emergency.

MP900444098Step 3. Forbid doubts to creep in once you’re trained.

Don’t compare your skill to the absent leader’s expertise. You’re trained. Just do it with joy.

Tell us about a time you filled in for someone in a pinch.

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  1. Marcia A. Lahti

    I once had to ask someone to take over my group. I truly admire and am thankful for people who can step in and lead a group.

    I was thinking about Zoe’s step two. YouTube provides a lot of good instruction: How to help a choking child, conscious and unconscious. How to give CPR to children and adults. How to save a drowning victim. How to administer an epipen and perform an emergency tracheotomy. How to help in a diabetic coma or epileptic seizure. I expect we could learn what to do in all kinds of emergencies by watching these teaching moments.

  2. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Excellent suggestions for emergency preparedness, Marcia. Especially when so many are a few online clicks away. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Vie H.

    And,I so appreciate Zoe’s willingness to step in and teach our JoyWriters group. She is an answer to my prayers and an inspiration to others who might give leading a try at a later date. I especially like Zoe’s third point. Often our need to measure up to someone else, or just our own perfectionism prevents us from volunteering to lead. But God blesses our willingness and fills in for our weaknesses.

  4. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Vie, you’re so kind. I’m thankful that I’ve had lots of time to prepare for the upcoming workshop. But now that I’ve done the preparation and after I’ve led it once, I think I could step in and teach the principles on the spur of the moment.

  5. Bonnie Winters

    I’m loving this one Zoe. LOL! It happened to me once! Our church hosted a graduation ceremony for a Christian school. The speaker for the graduation ceremony didn’t show up and guess who was asked to speak? My hubby was away that weekend and the headmaster had spoken the previous year so she looked right at me. I composed a 3 point message about following your God-given dreams on the fly and swallowed the butterflies to do it. She told me later it was one of the best messages they’ve had at a graduation event. Whew! Of course, i had spoken in front of crowds before, but not with only a half hour to prepare… But God will always come through when we are willing.

  6. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Bonnie, this is a perfect example. Thanks for sharing. And, yes, God is good.

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