Anyone willing to pay the price can enhance and expand their leadership skills, but what helps a leader to last? Missionary Tom McCracken suggests we are called not to be leaders, but servers. "We cannot scramble for prestige posts, for leadership is not the right to direct others, it is the ability to influence them."
A career missionary in Brazil, McCracken knows that within the Christian family "leadership grows from dependable service." Christian leadership, claims McCracken, is "the earned confidence of our brothers and sisters in the faith" that "fits men and women into places where they can influence others." Peter Drucker supports this concept when he suggests that "great leaders are bred from great causes, but leaders, at their best, also breed great causes." Very significantly, Drucker also believes that "until and unless business creates a cause bigger and more embracing than enrichment of the shareholders, it will have few great leaders." 1
Ordway lead distinguishes the CEO from the leader when he suggests that "in industry it is not the passion for profits but for people which distinguishes the leader from the mere executive."2
For Drucker, it is natural to look more to the private sector for leadership.
Following are seven ways of achieving and maintaining significant, lasting leadership.
Walk personally with Jesus Christ
Assuming a leadership position does not guarantee that one has leadership skills. Moreover, being a leader in one context does not guarantee leadership skills in every other kind of situation. Leadership begins with the person leading, and a personal commitment to a personal Savior provides the initial foundation on which God gifts all leadership.
Personal skills and needs vary considerably from one situation to another. Leaders that last build on those qualities of character that God alone can expand and enrich. Paul made this clear when he wrote that "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph. 2:10, NIV).
When facing circumstances we cannot change, we can allow God to change us. God gifts His church with the responsibility for enlisting and training workers and providing them alternatives for service. He may even add new skills to our repertoire.
Love people generously and genuinely
Take the sharing out of life, and you remove the shine from it. Individual Christians need to recognize their need for giving. The first essential in serving is to be available. Then comes sharing your skills. We can develop significant leadership skills in spite of feeling inadequate, if we are willing to further expand our skills for the sake of God's work.
It naturally follows that successful leader ship requires loving people. People relate best with people who identify in a redemptive manner with their personal needs and problems. Personal needs provide avenues for progressive relationships.
The army focuses its programming on spiritual growth by helping people meet unmet needs. In this way, well-planned programs become the natural entrees for reaching individuals. When unable to love people as they are, leaders lack the necessary ability to understand the people God sends their way. It is difficult to lead people who feel unloved, and much easier to lead those who sense their leader genuinely loves them and has their welfare at heart.
Maximize relational skills
The body of Christ, like the human body, finds its strength in its relationships. Effectiveministries and those who lead them depend heavily upon those interpersonal networks. The ability to work with others only increases one's value as a leader. An inability to work with others greatly decreases one's value both as a leader and as a worker.
God's redemptive work most frequently takes place when the church team makes the most of its relationships, especially those outside the congregational fellowship. Enriching one's personal ability to relate to people greatly enhances individual leadership skills while multiplying the collective skills of a congregation.
Understand ourselves and others
Although an agnostic, Bertrand Russell alleged that Christian love, or compassion, is the motive for existence. He saw it as a guide in action, a reason for courage, and an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.
Because God has a meaningful place for every person to serve, any one can avoid becoming unbalanced and ineffective through diligent efforts to improve one's self. True, some of us are introverts and more retiring. We find it easier to work more effectively by ourselves. Others, being more extroverted and outgoing, find it more comfortable to work in concert with others.
Either way, everyone gains when we discover and evaluate our positive strengths and negative weaknesses. Caring enough to understand our selves, and caring enough to minister to others, significantly strengthens God's ability to bless our efforts. Leadership skills will improve as we understand ourselves better and as we allow God to reshape us as necessary.
Practice positive faith
Former Secretary of State General Colin Powell understood leadership this way: "If you get the dirty end of the stick, sharpen it and turn it into a useful tool."3 Leaders who last refuse to harbor discouragement. People quickly reflect a leader's attitudes, especially negative attitudes.
Discouraging times overtake every one sooner or later. They may originate with poor organization or come with insufficient motivation, improper objectives, or just plain tough times. In any case, a positive faith that exalts God will lift up fellow workers and increase worker value.
The worker-leader never stands taller in the eyes of his or her peers than when doing God's work without becoming easily discouraged. We all find it easier to face our own problems when we can visualize the possibilities through the eyes of positive leaders.
Maintain courageous convictions
"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems," concluded Colin Powell, "is the day you have stopped leading them."4 Strong convictions hold us up when circumstances are ready to cast us down.
More important than the convictions we hold are the convictions that hold us. Although Jesus knew the obvious outcome of His convictions, He steadfastly set His face toward Jerusalem. His convictions held Him! Once resolved, the set of His soul became concrete. God honors that kind of faith!
Expand your talents
Good leadership, like good workmanship, builds on personal respect. Respect the personhood of others at all times and you will be respected, even amid disagreements. When leaders respect the members' commitment to Christ, and their love for one another, the church will be respected. Willingness to pursue a task with courageous conviction will reap respect, even from a nonsupportive community.
As Christians, we place ourselves in a position to receive God's best gifts when we allow Him to place us in the body as it pleases Him. Growth through God's gifting, whatever our ability, witnesses far more significantly than the very best situation we can construct on our own. Such growth will produce a leader whose faith is easily read and readily followed.
The church is always in need of leaders that God has gifted. Moreover, God will use any leader He can gift. Servant leaders almost always make a significant difference!
1 Peter F. Drucker, The Leader of the Future (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996), 9.
2 Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership (New York: Whittlesey, 1935), 103.
3 Colin Powell, with Joseph E. Persico, My American journey (New York: Random House, 1995), 214.
4 Ibid., 52.