4 Unsung Traits of a Biblical Leader

A simple online search for “leadership” yields 734 million results including definitions, articles, magazine subscriptions, videos, and books. If you add the word “Christian” to “leadership” you trim the results down significantly, but there’s still almost 12 million. But for this article, I’m less interested in the definition and the process of leadership than I am the connotation that comes with the word.

What do we think of when we think of leadership?

Most of us, I believe, think in terms of charisma and inspiration. That leadership is about moving people to your way of thinking of doing through the sheer force of your personality. That because of your passion, rhetoric, and drive you can move people to follow where you are going. And while there is merit to that line of thinking, it assumes that leadership happens in front of a crowd. But I’m finding more and more that some of the strongest leaders I know aren’t necessarily recognized as such. These are those who don’t have a huge audience and don’t overflow with rhetorical skill, but instead are a constant source of steady strength and resolve behind the scenes.

They don’t lead masses, but they lead their families. They don’t lead the movement but they lead meetings. They don’t lead the online community but they lead their co-workers and their friends, though no one has officially knighted them as the leader. And in these quiet leaders in the home, in the marketplace, and in relationships, there are certain qualities of leadership that often go overlooked. These qualities don’t have the same notoriety as qualities like great speaking ability or persuasive words, but they are nonetheless present in spades in those who do their leading in the most quiet of ways.

Here, then, are 4 often overlooked qualities of a Christian leader:

1. A leader tells the truth.

A true leader doesn’t just tickle the ears of the people who have fallen in line behind them. Instead, they are willing to engage in the unpopular business of truth telling. That doesn’t mean they are abrasive, wielding the truth like a jack hammer. But it does mean they are willing to engage in the difficult conversation that makes both them and the person or people they are talking to uncomfortable. They choose not to placate those around them because they know the truth is important and worth fighting for. They are courageous enough to stand on principle in their home, in their job, and in their relationships even though doing so might be costly.

What does this look like? In the family, it looks like the adult who is more committed to being a father or mother than to being the best friend of their teenager. In the marketplace, it looks like someone who is willing to quietly object for the good of the people they serve even at the risk of the bottom line. Relationally, this quality of leadership is borne out when a person isn’t content to let their friends make bad decisions, but instead engages willingly in honest and difficult conversations, for they know that the best thing any friend can do is help another friend walk with Jesus.

2. A leader is willing to get dirty.

Many times leaders are those who are out front, and part of the danger of being out front is that you don’t know what life is like within the pack. But the Christian leader is not content to spout directives without actually following up and through with the people who are hearing them. Instead, the Christian leader is also the burden bearer, one who not only sets the direction but picks up the rope to help pull the load.

What does this look like? It looks like a leader who actually knows the people he or she is leading, and they know them well. A leader like this isn’t afraid to be interrupted with real life concerns, and they do things like make notes to themselves to check back in regularly not for the purpose of achieving an objective but simply to be informed about what’s happening in others lives. Leaders who are willing to get dirty feel deeply the struggles of those they are leading in their home, church, or workplace. Their hands are dirty with real life stuff and not sanitized with cursory and surface knowledge.

3. A leader is decisive.

Leadership is about making decisions. A thousand times a day. And one of the overlooked qualities of leadership is the ability and willingness to make those decisions – hard decisions – in a timely manner. I know for me, as a leader in different environments, the prospect of making so many decisions on a daily basis often feels like a weight. Sometimes, a crushing weight. But the Christian leader doesn’t run form this responsibility. It’s not that they relish it, either, but that they know they have a job to do. They have a job as a father. As a mother. As a manager. As an elder. And they mean to see that job done.

Leadership looks like a person having it all together and boldly charging into the future, but the true guts of that leadership is, I believe, the courage to make actual real-life decisions in real-time with real people. Day after day.

4. A leader knows when to listen.

When I think of great leaders, I think of the person who has the plan. The one who charts the direction. The one who inspires with the rhetoric. But one of the most overlooked qualities of the Christian leader is knowing when to just shut up. The temptation for the leader is to believe he or she always has to be the one with the great idea. But leadership is at least as much about empowering and listening to others with great ideas as it is about generating them on your own.

The Christian leader knows when to listen to their kids. Their spouse. Their co-workers. Their team. And the true leader knows when someone else has a better idea than they do, or at least has brought some information to the table that should make him or her reconsider the direction they’ve planned.

Sure leaders are out front. And most of the time they’ve got some charisma. But don’t overlook the unsung qualities of true leaders. And don’t sell short those who exhibit these qualities even if they aren’t the best ones to give the speech at the end.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Kelley

I’m a Christ-follower, husband, dad, author and speaker. Thanks for stopping here to dialogue with me about what it means to live deeply in all the arenas of life. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife Jana who is living proof of the theory that males are far more likely to marry over their heads than females are. We have three great kids, Joshua (5) and Andi (3), and Christian (less than 1). They remind me on a daily basis how much I have to grow in being both a father and a child. I work full time for Lifeway Christian Resources, where I’m a Bible study editor. I also get out on the road some to speak in different churches, conferences and retreats.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

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