When you think about the characteristics of a good leader, what comes to mind? I suspect many of us would think about a pastor or a boss in the workplace, or perhaps a husband or father. Those roles would be worth your time to consider since they are all “impactful positions” where a person’s demeanor, attitudes, words, and actions can shape their spheres of influence for a lifetime.
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I aim to take your thoughts about leadership and expand them while making a case that every Christian is a leader regardless of where they stand within any hierarchical structure. For example, a husband is a leader, as you already know, but so is his wife.
And a parent, child, church member, employee, and a friend are all leaders. “Are you a leader” is one of those questions you don’t need to ask a believer. If you’re a Christian, you are a Christian leader. And though no leader has perfected the skill of leadership, all good Christian leaders are progressively changing into the best version of a leader that they can be.
When assessing your unique leadership qualities, it’s vital not to look for the perfection of any trait, but discern whether or not you have the presence of a characteristic. The critical questions are, what kind of leader are you? And how are you maturing into Christlikeness, our perfect leader?
Stratification and Similarity
There are different kinds of leaders, which is why you want to understand the roles of each person within a stratification structure. Meaning, a wife may be subordinate in some ways to her husband, but her role does not mean she can’t be a leader.
A wife can walk in humble submission to her husband and be an astonishing leader within her calling to be a wife to her husband and a friend to others. A son or daughter can function fantastically well in their dual roles as “subordinate children and leaders” within their spheres of influence, including how they help their parents to be better individuals. All church members have similar opportunities of submission to and leadership of their pastors (Hebrews 13:17, 10:25).
Jesus functioned this way when He lived among us. He was a humble and confident leader of multitudes while humbly submitted to the authority of His Father (John 6:38). Following and leading should not be self-negating roles.
The real question circles around the quality of your leadership style rather than if you are a leader, which brings us back to the traits that make a competent leader? If you want to see what a perfected model of leadership looks like, Jesus is an excellent example for us to observe. Specifically, I want to zero on the events just before His crucifixion. You can read it in Matthew 21:1-17.
Humility: He Is Not What You Think
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee. – Matthew 21:10-11
One of the characteristics of an excellent leader is that he breaks down poor stereotypes and horrible preconceived notions about leadership. He can wipe away any bad experiences that you may have had with an ineffective leader.
The people of Jesus’ day knew what leadership looked like—via the Pharisees—and it was not how Jesus did it. To be with Jesus, you have to think other-worldly, which is also how we experience the gospel. (Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). God’s ways and our ways can be opposed to each other (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Jesus came to Jerusalem on a donkey, not a warhorse. Humility is the first and most essential characteristic of a Christian leader. Without a humbled heart before the Lord (and others), everything else that pours out of a leader will eventually collapse.
- What evidence would others say that describe you as a humble leader?
- Does your humility catch people off guard, as you deconstruct poor leadership models?
Authority: He Is a Courageous Leader
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. – Matthew 21:12
After stepping off His donkey, He went into the temple to give it a cleanse. It was His way of staking claim to His Kingship. That was an unusual “next move” on His part because it seemed to fly in the face of humility.
Humility and authority should not be antagonistic to each other because they need each other. A humility that resembles a doormat is not humility at all. That’s fear. Humility unhooks the soul from fearful self-awareness while releasing it to do God’s will—whatever that may be (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Authority without humility creates a devil whose two main interests are selfish ambition and a glorified reputation. Jesus was freed from both of these sins because the condition of His heart was humility. Humility does not negate speaking the truth, exhibiting courage, or being authoritative. Be who God wants you to be, but be that way with humility.
- Does your humility create an environment in which your authority is rightly understood and accepted?
- Or does your authority spring from a heart of selfish ambition and craving for reputation?
Approachable: He Is Attractive to the Humble
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. – Matthew 21:14
Jesus entered the temple humbly, did not hold back from being authoritarian, and He was an approachable servant. (Also see Mark 10:45) The self-exalted, self-pronounced, self-appointed vital people in the temple that day were angry at what Jesus was doing, but the blind and lame people were not interested in the religious leader’s reputations or self-importance. They recognized Jesus for who He was, and they wanted to be with Him.
Humility receives humble leadership. And vice versa. The humble folks received Christ, but proud ones resisted His humble leadership. Pride and humility are like oil and water.
If the leader is humble and the followers are too, there will be sweet communal harmony between both of them. The blind and lame were not afraid of His authoritative leadership style because they experienced it in the context of His humility.
Though Jesus (and all excellent leaders) had more characteristics than humility, courage, and approachability, these three stood out just before He was put to death, which is another unusual characteristic of a competent leader: He will die for you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. – John 15:13-14
Call to Action
- Will you ask a close friend if they perceive you as a humble person? (It takes humility to ask such a question, and you will do it if you’re not into reputation management.)
- Does your authority flow out of your humility? How do you know? Will you ask someone about this to see if they agree with you?
- Do people approach you with their most vulnerable, humbling, and transparent questions? If not, why not?