Growing in Leadership

by Tammy Darling

In a chaotic and often dangerous society, people want leaders who will give them sound direction. People will gladly and willingly follow leaders who are trustworthy and credible. By His actions and godly discipline, Jesus demonstrated that He is a leader we can trust. We can follow His example.

Because some leaders are untrustworthy, it may be difficult for nonbelievers and even new Christians to trust Jesus. This is why we need certain Christian leadership traits evident in us — because everyone is a leader to someone.

As Christians, we are all leaders in some capacity at work, church, or in our homes. We owe it to those around us to develop our leadership skills while helping others develop theirs. Everyone has leadership potential; they just may need to cultivate it.

We do not base a Christian’s worth as a leader on his or her skills and abilities, but on status as a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When God raises a person to a position of leadership, He helps him do the job.

Leaders are human; they have flaws. Even Paul talked about his flawed human nature in the Book of Romans (7:14–25), when he described how he struggled with sin.

Limited Authority

When we receive authority, people are entrusting us with power — power that can be a blessing or a curse to others. When we exercise authority, we must remember we are God’s agents. If we do not recognize and acknowledge that God has given us this position of authority, it is easy to treat our authority as an opportunity to get our own way.

God puts us in authority over others so we can serve and love them in His name (see Matthew 20:25–28). Authority that serves and loves seeks the best for others, not for oneself. Chuck Colson reminds us, “It is difficult to stand on a pedestal and wash the feet of those below.”

Since there are limits to authority, the trouble begins when authority figures step out of bounds. God gave Adam and Eve authority, but with limits. We know what happened when they went beyond their boundaries.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve by focusing their attention on the one thing they could not do, rather than on all they could. Satan uses the same tactics on us: he gets us bothered by the few things we can’t do, and we quickly become discontent with what we can do.

Abuse of authority comes from acting independently of the One who entrusts us with power. An abuse of authority does not look the same for every person. It may involve overreacting or underreacting, or a lack of action or too much action displayed through anger, intimidation, force, yelling, threats, and more. Exercising authority should never be simply a display of power; it should always have a purpose.

No one has the authority to make someone else do something that is morally wrong. This is beyond the limits of his authority. The same is true as well for an employer, a government official, or a spiritual leader.

Leadership Qualities

We cannot compromise leadership traits; they are essential to developing credible leadership and character. The following leadership traits not only help us remain strong Christians but also enable us to become credible leaders:

Perseverance. The ability to persevere in trying circumstances and with difficult people is key to great leadership. Every day we face opportunities to give up. However, God’s plan for us is always to prosper (Jeremiah 29:11). We have every reason to be assured that He will give us the courage to press on.

Responsibility. A credible leader is not afraid to take responsibility even when the going gets tough or things go wrong. A person with a strong sense of responsibility does not pass the buck just because he has authority to do so. He is willing to take the blame and then watch what God will do. In fact, in Christian circles we often define responsibility as our response to God’s ability.

Humility. We demonstrate true humility when we have something (tangible or intangible) and voluntarily give it up. This is not always easy for those in leadership. We also show humility by not praising ourselves even if we deserve it (Proverbs 27:2), by serving all (Matthew 20:26), by not choosing a place of prominence (Luke 14:10), by letting God vindicate you (Luke 12:11), and by submission to elders (1 Peter 5:5,6). No one likes a haughty leader; everyone respects a humble one.

Confidence. As believers in Christ, we have a God-given confidence that enables us to carry out the most difficult tasks. Philippians 4:13 assures us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Credible Christian leaders possess a healthy confidence that is not self-centered, but God-centered.

Honesty. Nothing discredits a leader faster than dishonesty. Truthfulness and fear of man cannot coexist. For a leader to be credible and trustworthy, he must be honest at all times and in all things. We display honesty by actions as well as words. Someone said, “Truth doesn’t need to raise its voice; it speaks for itself.”

Patience. What does patient leadership look like? Patience is showing tolerance and grace to others and accepting difficult situations without reacting negatively. Patience refuses to make demands or set conditions to make others perform at unrealistic levels. Patience waits on the Lord.

Integrity. A credible leader must possess a high level of integrity. Integrity is obedience to a moral code of values that includes honor, truth, and reliability. Integrity allows one to keep his word and do his best even when no one is watching.

Loyalty A loyal leader will not be tossed by the waves of life but will remain steadfast to his calling. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Loyal leaders remain committed to those God has called them to serve, even in times of difficulty.

Servanthood. Servant leadership is exercising godly leadership as Christ did by influencing, equipping, and empowering people to accomplish God’s purposes and plan. Servant leaders do not see any task as beneath them and are willing to go the extra mile setting a clear example for those under their leadership. Robert Greenleaf said, “Good leaders must first become good servants.”

Respect. A leader who people can trust and follow is one who respects all people. These leaders see their positions and people as a gift from God and treat them with respect and honor. A credible leader will never display disrespect to another person either publicly or privately.

Self-Control. Strong leaders are able to show restraint and discipline their behavior. They are constantly aware that their position of leadership requires they set a good example for others to follow.

Compassion. “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9). Strong leaders are not blind to the needs of others and will go out of their way to meet those needs. Compassion demonstrated by those in leadership positions encourages others to do likewise.

Godliness. “Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Good leaders know that outward appearance is not that important or even lasting; it is what is inside that matter most. Holy living is more important to them than the position they hold.

Courage. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Leaders lacking courage rule according to the majority and turn whichever way the wind blows. Leaders with courage, however, do not back down.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Whether we are the leaders of many or one, adults or children, these character traits are imperative to ensure we are trustworthy and credible. Never before have leaders of this stature been so desired and needed. Let us strive to be those leaders for if we do not lead people, someone else will.

Tammy Darling, Three Springs, Pennsylvania