10 Things You Should Know about Leadership

This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.

1. Leaders Listen

Seek to hear God’s voice in order to clarify your convictions. Listen to your conscience—its longings and desires (Rom. 14:23), feel the weight of God in a starry sky (Ps. 19:1) or taste His richness in a glass of wine (Ps. 104:15). When we hear something that rings true about the Father’s world in the voice of an economist or community leader, our ears should perk up. The Pulitzer is God’s. Quantum mechanics is God’s. There is not a square inch of knowledge that doesn’t belong to God. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the church (Eph. 5:19), listen as the Holy Spirit convicts of sins (John 16:8), and most importantly, listen as the Spirit illumines our understanding of His Word (Eph. 1:17-18).

2. Leaders Live It Out

Practice what you preach, because people do what people see. You can’t lead while stationary. Leaders who live out their convictions gain credibility. Until you are living out your core convictions, it’s unlikely many will be inspired to follow you or sacrifice to make your leadership vision a reality (1 Thess. 1:6). We can have the right answers, but if those answers remain fluffy abstractions and not concrete practices, they have no power (James 2:17).

3. Leaders Dream

Make creative connections between where you are and what God wants. Creative connections begin with diverse experiences (Ps. 42:1; Matt. 6:26). In order to be creative, I need the museum and I need the mountains. Creativity is imagination applied (Ps. 33:6; Heb. 11:3). When we combine our conviction of what must be with a dream of what could be, we get vision.

4. Leaders Persuade

Be winsome. Be a poet. Help your people dream. People think not merely in syllogisms but also in stories. Don’t tell them about it, take them there! Paint with vivid colors and speak with poetic vibrancy. Step into poetic inspiration with confidence, because, after all, you are made in the Creator’s image. You are creative. You won’t be stepping out alone. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters hovers over your heart and your church (Gen. 1:2). He created you in his image, and he goes with you (Josh. 1:9; Matt. 28:20).

Step into poetic inspiration with confidence, because, after all, you are made in the Creator’s image.

5. Leaders Seek

Look for where God is working. Opportunities are invitations. The truth is that God was on mission before it was an activity for Christians or a line item in the church budget (Gen. 17:4). As a church grows, however, programming and administration can sideline mission. Don’t let the bureaucracy of leadership immobilize you. Explore and seek! Be faithful in what God has called you to do—no matter how seemingly insignificant it may appear—don’t be in a hurry to move on. Exploration doesn’t mean that you even have to leave where you are. These opportunities are not invitations to bolster your résumé out of a deceitful heart of comparison and competition but to be comfortably courageous to lead, die and be forgotten.

6. Leaders Join

Speak up, step out, and act. God is inviting you to join him in his work. What’s amazing and insane about the Trinitarian economy is that God is constantly stepping out and giving everything away. The Father calls and commands us to join his mission (Matt. 28:18–20; John 20:19–23; Acts 1:8). Courageous leaders expose themselves emotionally to uncertainty and risk. Leaders will not stay hidden behind the bushes, covering and shifting blame (Gen. 3:7-12). Leaders step out of their fear, shame and guilt—courageously vulnerable—knowing that they are chosen, loved, called, and empowered by God (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

7. Leaders Serve

Be humble. Value others as more important than yourself. There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” You are who you are by God’s grace alone. God could have accomplished his entire redemptive plan by himself, but he decided to partner with people. The Son of Man came, not just to partner but to serve (Matt. 20:28). Let this humble you.

8. Leaders Support

Give your team what they need to grow through ministry challenges. Give your team self-directing freedom for things to be messy—or even to fail—and provide an opportunity for relentless and passionate adaptability when it does. Eyes can’t hear and ears can’t smell: we need one another (1 Cor. 12:12-27). A prideful person will take on too much responsibility. A coward takes on too little.

9. Leaders Receive

Open your heart to God. Hear his voice. Our lives of noise are shouting: “We don’t trust God! We don’t know how to stop working! We don’t know how to enjoy life!” Destroy the cycle of compulsion with rest. Sabbath is God’s way of saying, “Stop. Notice your limits. Don’t burn out.”

Contemplative leaders maintain a life of communion by remembering God’s presence, by trusting his promises to forgive and restore, and by seeking the Spirit’s work (John 7:37–39; Luke 11:12–13; Gal. 3:2, 14). To have communion with others, we first must commune with God.

10. Leaders Rejoice

Rejoice in his gifts. Celebrate God’s work in others. A weekend at a friend’s lake house with fishing and jet skis doesn’t have to include a guilt-ridden drive home for having “too much fun.” Paul picks up on this truth: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4). Rejoice in his gifts but remember: to know the heights of joy, you must know the depths of sorrow. Make room to feel hurt and anguish (Rom. 12:15).

Celebrate God’s work in others. Our relationship with Christ should be a penetratingly rich personal connection that fuels us to be present with others. Draw near, slow down, and be among the people you lead. Allow others to serve you with their God-given gifts. Then intentionally thank them for doing so.

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