5 Qualities of a Leader
“You are a leader.” If I can summarize what I spend most of my week trying to convey to the people around me, it would be that phrase. It pains me to see how many people don’t identify with this reality. I once heard Christine Caine say, “We are all called to lead people to Christ, therefore, we are all leaders.” I couldn’t agree with her more. The world, however, has made us believe that leadership is less of a posture and more of a position.
As church builders, my desire is that we would all recognize this about ourselves and also empower others to see the leader within themselves. Aside from contextualizing the message of Jesus and presenting the gospel in a captivating way, our job is to mobilize men and women into action. To pedal the proverbial wheels of Jesus’s vessel for change here on earth—that is, the Church.
So why do we not accept this truth? Why do so many not identify as a leader? In my experience, it’s because we convolute what it means to lead and complicate what the application of leadership looks like. In this article, I would like to help shift that paradigm. Let’s break it down together.
What is leadership?
No matter what concept of leadership you lean into (i.e. Transformational Leadership, Servant Leadership, Situational Leadership), they can all be summed up with this simple definition: Leadership is a person’s ability to influence others toward a common purpose. That’s it. Leaders are meant to drive people towards a common objective.
If we agree on that, then the key ingredient we have to solve for is generating a common purpose, objective, or goal. For church leaders, this part is easy. Jesus made it clear what our common purpose is. We may phrase or frame it differently, but hopefully all of our explanations are firmly aligned with the mission of Jesus: to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
So now that we’ve simplified leadership and understand what we’re trying to accomplish, the next question is...
What are the qualities of a leader?
Leaders have to be consistent. Before someone looks for character, they look for consistency. In troubling times especially, it is consistency that calms the nerves. Think about the last two years. The major ingredients of all the unrest were uncertainty, instability, and ambiguity. Those things create anxiety in people. But worse than that, they cause people to default to their comfort zones and coping mechanisms. And usually that stuff isn’t healthy. So what’s the remedy? Consistency. That’s what the people under your leadership need from you. Stability, someone rooted. Someone standing firm.
Leaders know how to be contrite. Leaders know how to be humble and show their weaknesses. They know when to admit they’re wrong. Why does this matter? Because being relatable is a must. And being contrite, humble, and vulnerable makes it possible for others to relate. If they can relate, they will follow.
Think about Jesus! Ours is the only faith in human history where God left paradise to step into humanity. Why? To experience life through our eyes, to show us how to be human, and to accept our punishment as his own. To show us that he has dealt with the pain, sorrows, and imperfections of the flesh. And it is that relatability that creates reliability in his message! Jesus isn’t an unattainable, unreachable concept. He’s 100% God, but he’s also 100% man. And it is his connection to humanity that puts you and me in a place where we can relate to him and follow him. That’s leadership!
Leaders are courageous. Courage is essential in leadership because the first person to move on something is typically viewed as the leader. Leaders go first.
It takes boldness to lead people to places they’ve never been before. And if you’re attempting to advance the kingdom, then you’ve never been where you’re attempting to go. Hear me: People want to be led somewhere. And, for many, it honestly doesn’t matter where. They just want to go somewhere. They want direction! So if we don’t lead them somewhere good, someone else might lead them somewhere bad. It takes courage to stand in the gap, to chart new waters, to push people beyond their comfort zones. Leaders must be courageous.
Leaders operate out of conviction. Before people want to know what you do, they want to know what you believe. Before they model your behavior, they are attracted to your attitude.
God has called you to build his church. And if he’s called you, he will equip you. God doesn’t need you for a task, he wants you in the process. When we operate in conviction, we don’t need to recruit people to join our cause—they flock to us. A leader with conviction is the type of leader that brings change.
Lastly, leaders are committed. Whether you’re brand new in your role or a seasoned veteran, now is the time to commit. Sign up again. If you don’t quit, you win. The goal isn’t to grow large, the goal is to last. That mentality is needed now more than ever. Too many people are concerned with short-term gains so they jump from thing to thing, person to person, church to church. We have to show the world that commitment is possible and profitable.
Systemic change comes from sustained commitment.
As we reflect on the role of leadership, I’m reminded of this moment captured in the book of Acts:
“When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.’” Acts 20:18-24
1. Consistency — Paul lived steadily while moving among them (v.18)
2. Contrition — Paul acted humbly and willingly showed his weakness (v. 19)
3. Courage — Paul didn’t shrink from doing the right thing (v. 20)
4. Conviction — Paul communicated his convictions boldly (v. 21)
5. Commitment — Paul left for Jerusalem, willing to die for Jesus (vv. 22, 23)
Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a privilege. It’s not a mantle, it’s a mindset.
Let’s lead people to the good news of God’s grace.