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The nature of leadership

A leader is someone who is focused on ‘going somewhere’, being compelled by passion and creative dreams of what is possible. They should be people of integrity and good communicators, decisive with problem-solving ability

Without followers no-one is not a leader!

and make the best decision even when under pressure. Through networking with others they will be in humble accountability, yet self-confident, self-disciplined, patient and prepared to delegate. Through their optimistic personalities they have the ability to inspire, motivate and empower others to go with them towards the goal as they lead by example. While they mightn’t know all the answers, they are further down the path than the followers.

Christian leadership is best when it springs from the overflow of a personal walk with God. In addition, a good Christian leader must be free of selfish ambition, upright and faithful in ministry, have a heart for God and people, with total commitment to the truth of the Bible. They recognise doing what pleases Him by developing and maintaining godly character qualities is more important than talents and gifts (Jn 13:14,15; Gal 5:22,23; Phil 2:3; 1 Tim 1:12, 3:1-13; Jas 3:13-18; 1 Pet 5:2,3). They are mindful to "Keep watch over themselves and those they are responsible for" (Act 20:28). Spiritual leaders who deviate from the path of Godliness yet fill positions of influence without the accompanying moral qualities cause many to stumble because they don’t have a true shepherd heart (1 Kgs 22:17; Isa 56:11; Jer 10:21, 23:1, 50:6; Zech 10:2; Mal 2:7,8; Mt 9:36, 23:13).

Christian (servant) leadership

Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and set the example by washing the disciples’ feet. He demonstrated the servant-heart that distinguishes good leadership and stated, “Do as I have done to you” (Mt 20:25-28; Jn 13:3-5,14,15). This act signified His humility yet He remained secure in His self-worth, not threatened by undertaking activities normally done by the lowest ranking servant.

Leaders should not see themselves as experts, but rather as imperfect and vulnerable fellow travelers, walking the road of discovery together, yet with the ability to influence and relate to the people who look to them for guidance and spiritual input. As authorities set in place by God, such leaders are to govern diligently pointing them to Christ, not gathering to themselves a following (Rom 12:6,7; Phil 4:9; 1 Thes 2:1-16; 2 Tim 4:3; Heb 13:7). The early church leaders kept focused on their calling rather than being sidetracked by other issues (Act 6:2-4).

In God’s Kingdom, leaders are to serve people and not use or abuse them. By being both goal orientated and people focused, they lead but do not drive or lord it over others, instead identifying with them so it becomes ‘we’ and ‘us’ not ‘you’. Good leaders communicate by words and deeds. They practice what they preach rather than exerting

A life is significant by the impact it has on others

authority, they are “examples to the flock” (Mt 23:3,4; 1 Pet 5:3). It is necessary for followers and leaders to listen to each other and especially to God, so they have confidence in each other. Just because a person is good at something does not make them a leader for the test is to see how many people are following.

Church leadership

Leaders must be accessible to the people, interacting in social settings as well as spiritual ones for how can they know the condition of their flock unless they rub shoulders with them (Prov 27:23). Jesus was effective in His ministry with people because He mixed with them constantly and therefore knew their struggles and concerns. Leadership is not about personal accomplishment or power; rather it is what leaders inspire in others through love, influence and example for no one will be a great leader if they want to do everything themselves.

It is a big responsibility to lead, requiring a time of preparation, the proving of character and ability, coupled with ongoing development as they take people (with them) to a higher level. Leaders need wisdom to delegate some responsibilities and they must train replacements by prayerfully selecting, developing and commissioning successors as Moses did with Joshua (Num 11:28, 27:18,22,23;

Leadership is a responsibility not a title

Deut 31:7,14). The church should be intentional in the training of future leaders, as we can’t expect people to lead without adequate training.

Leaders should follow up on assigned tasks to ensure instructions have been satisfactorily followed, maybe giving correction, further directions or encouragement as they continue to mentor and monitor those under them. A leader must challenge their followers to go beyond their current comfort zone, to move into greater dimensions of service and effectiveness. Yet, when criticism and complaints are directed at leaders they need to ‘rise above’ the circumstances, responding in a loving, gracious spirit of goodwill and not letting things ‘get to them’ (1 Pet 3:9). No one leader in a church or organisation should have absolute control for although they may make the final decision, there should be a team of key people to advise and guide (Prov 13:10, 20:18).

We are all leaders in some areas but followers in others. We should respect, obey, encourage and pray for our leaders as they fill their responsibilities, yet not elevate them to a higher level than is warranted or else we will contribute to a possible fall – God won’t share His glory with any other and pride is destructive (Prov 16:18; Isa 42:8; 1 Tim 2:1-3; Heb 13:17). A leader needs the support of others to ‘hold up their hands’ in battle (Ex 17:8-13). Who do I aid in their ministry?

Family leadership

God holds the husband primarily responsible for the leadership in the home. This is to be undertaken in love and self-sacrifice not by demanding or forcing submission, for when true love

Healthy leadership functions because of trust

leads trust follows. Jesus, Himself, is their role model (Eph 5:22-33). Leaders need to keep their priorities in balance, including time with their family, and anticipate possible alternatives if the preferred approach does not work out.

There have been numerous hugely influential leaders down through the history of the church. While a few are listed under ‘influential Christians’ in this resource, countless others, who are known only to God, and those their lives have impacted, will be rewarded in eternity. Reading about them can be stimulating and challenging.

See also: accountability, authority, church, control, delegate, example, family, false teachers, follow/follower, influence, influential Christians, mentor, servant/serving.