Leadership is influence. Many good authorities on leadership confirm this.
But is leadership just influence? I'd say it's a lot more than influence.
The question is—What kind of influence does a leader have?
Some leaders are authoritarian—almost tyrannical in their style and influence, while others use a more laid-back approach, even guru-like, as a mentor. And many leadership approaches fall somewhere in between those two.
True biblically sound leadership is more than a style or approach. True leaders and shepherds lead the way for others with confidence and humility. When done well, people follow them by following their example.
Example is essential
This is the third post in a series related to pastoral leadership. We've looked at three words essential to being a shepherd like Jesus—love, feed, and lead. As with the two previous posts, I'll use the four letters of lead as an acrostic—L-E-A-D.
What can be said about leading? A lot! And a lot's been written and spoken about how to lead. Most of what’s written is related to business environments and some of it is quite relevant. But a ministry—especially when pastoring a church—is not a business.
Our prime model for leadership is Jesus. He's the example for all believers wherever they may lead but especially for those of us who are pastors.
How did Jesus lead? He led with authority and humility and used various means to prepare His followers for leadership.
A major part of Jesus' leadership was His example. Not just as a sinless human but as a genuine one. As a Son who followed His Father (John 4:34; 5:19). This is important to note because we need to be lead-able to be good leaders of others.
Our own life example is essential for leading as Jesus led others
4 Ways to lead well
L– Listen and Learn
Listening and hearing well is somewhat of a lost art. We all want others to listen to us but how good are we at listening to others?
Listening is a vital part of good leadership. Leaders need to listen and they need to hear what's being said by those they lead.
A missionary friend of mine pointed out how Jesus listened and even asked questions as a young man (Luke 2:46). I’m pretty sure He knew the answers back then but it reveals the respect He showed others.
Reading through all four gospels this is seen in how Jesus engaged in conversations with everyone. Jesus was observant and heard what His followers talked about and even asked questions (Mark 9:33-37; Matt 16:13-15) to probe and prod them to think.
Jesus didn't listen to look for a place to jump in with what He wanted to say. He listened then responded in a way that let others know He heard them.
If you're a leader, are you able to listen to others and hear what they have to say? If not, why should anyone listen to you? It helped me pastor God's people when I started learning to spend more time listening than speaking.
I've learned a lot by listening to others, some of it good and some not so good. I try to hear their heart as well as their words. I also try to pay attention to what's not being said, as this can reveal much.
One more thought on all this. A good leader keeps learning from others even as we see in the example of the young Jesus in the temple. This is a sign of humility and openness.
When people see humility and openness in you and me—like what we see in Jesus—they’ll be more willing to follow our leadership.
When people see our willingness to listen and learn, they’re more willing to follow our lead
E– Educate and Equip
Education is often reduced to teaching and transferring knowledge. But a good education needs to be practical and useful for life. An academic education won't prepare God's people to serve in the church.
God gave leaders to the church body to equip them for service (Eph 4:11-16). I spoke about this previously when we looked at the word feed.
Jesus taught people more by example and dialoguing with them than just talking at them.
Look at how Jesus equipped His followers—those chosen as apostles and those who chose to be His disciples. Yes, He taught them as He spoke to the crowds but also revealed things to them behind the scenes (Matt 13:10-17).
Hear, see, and do
Those who followed Jesus learned by watching Him, hearing Him, and being with Him. Those He equipped for ministry watched, learned, then were given opportunity to do what they learned from Him.
Perhaps you're familiar with Jesus sending out the twelve, found in Matthew 10 and Luke 9. Later, Jesus sends out others who followed Him—not His specially chosen apostles (Luke 10:1-3).
This is an important example for pastors—we who are shepherds of God’s people!
Teaching and training need to be useful and productive, otherwise, it's just knowledge. Nowadays we can get that on the internet. We need to educate people for a specific purpose or purposes. This is the nature of equipping.
A simple question for any of us who lead is—Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?
Are we talking about truth or equipping people in the truth?
A– Accept and Acknowledge
I've served in many different ministries over the past four decades or so, often at the bottom of the "food-chain," as some of my friends say. You name it, I've probably done it, from cleaning toilets to running a backhoe.
But my wife and I also served in several different leadership roles. Because of our own experience, we learned to accept people as they are not how we think they should be. Not everyone can do everything or has the same gifting (Rom 12:4).
We've had staff who didn't do well in certain things but excelled in others. This taught us to find the right place for each person within the ministry.
Acknowledged and appreciated
Everyone has a place and purpose within the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:14-25; Eph 4:16)
When a specific role needs to be filled, it's important to find the right person. Otherwise, they will be frustrated as will we (their leaders). Accept people for who they are without unrealistic or unreasonable expectations of them.
When people feel valued, they do their work better and they're a lot happier doing it. They need to be acknowledged, noticed, and appreciated. This is especially true for those who serve in a volunteer capacity.
We all want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21).
Everyone has a place and purpose within the Body of Christ
D– Disciple and Delegate
In a previous post, we looked at discipleship as a means of feeding God’s people, but here I'd like to see how it benefits the Kingdom of God as a whole.
Discipleship isn't just about knowing doctrine and how to live it out, there is a greater purpose. Yes, a good disciple is a disciple-maker but there's still more to it.
Jesus knew He was preparing the apostles to lead and establish the church—the Kingdom of God on earth. Discipleship should involve doing. Yes, it's good to do life together but it's more important to have shared experiences.
By shared I mean a mutual participation on equal footing. How? Prayer, worship, serving others or any other activity where the leader isn't in charge of or overseeing the disciple. This helps create a shared trust of one another.
Delegation is not dumping
Delegation works best when trust exists. Not just dishing out responsibilities or tasks but entrusting it to others. Too often delegation is seen as dumping work off onto others. But wise delegation in ministry is an extension of discipleship.
Genuine discipleship sets the stage for reliable delegation. You come to trust those you disciple and they trust you. When trust exists, it's a lot easier to delegate a task or responsibility with confidence that it will be done well.
Early on in the Lord's training of His followers, He sends them out to do what they've seen Him do (Luke 9:1-6). He delegates ministry to them. He entrusted His authority to them along with responsibility.
Jesus shows us how discipleship done well leads to fruitful delegation. It includes authority with responsibility because of mutual trust.
Delegation works best when trust exists