Introduction: We Need Good Leaders
What follows is first in a series on Leadership. It’s a subject I’m passionate about because I’ve come to believe that everything rises or falls on leadership. While there are several factors that bear on the success of an endeavor, next to God’s favor, surely leadership is the most important and bears an inordinate weight on outcomes compared to other things.
As a pastor called to train other pastors and leaders, I’ve been studying leadership and pondering what makes for good and great leaders. I’ve read books by leaders about leadership, devoured biography and history, and watched what I consider great leaders to discern what allows them to excel.
Twice now at the church where I serve as lead pastor, we’ve done a yearlong leadership training class that’s been instrumental in deepening the work and walk of our members.
Then, here’s what happened . . .
In the Spring of 2015 I was a part of the teaching team for the Calvary Chapel Pastor and Church Leaders Conference at Siegen, Germany. One of the workshops I was assigned was on how to have a personal Bible study. The workshop lasted an hour and a half but I knew I’d cover the material in less than half that time. I was planning on doing an open Q&A time, but the day of the workshop, another idea occurred to me as I sat in one of the plenary sessions; to go over the marks of a great leader. I turned to a fresh piece of paper in my journal and made a quick bullet-point list of several qualities of great leaders. At break, I hurriedly threw together some PowerPoint slides with the points.
I’m a teach-from-notes kind of guy. I had no notes for this part of the workshop. I just shared form my heart about what I’d gleaned on great leaders. The people were attentive during the first part on how to have a personal Bible study, but when we shifted gears and began to speak on leadership, the interest and energy shot up remarkably. There was a genuine interest in the material and lots of questions that indicated they were connecting.
I can’t say why for certain, but in many follow up conversations I’ve come to believe the intense interest there was in talking about leadership is because in Europe in general and Germany in particular, there’s been a fear of strong leaders. History gave them good reason to be cautious. But the younger generation is hungry now for more sure and assertive leaders. The problem is, there is a dearth of older believers who will lead because to do so has been discouraged. Younger adults are over it and want to be more assertive. They need someone to teach them how to be good leaders.
If we are heading in to the last days, as by all accounts we are, the Church needs now, maybe more than at any time since the days of the Early Church, good and courageous leaders who’ll unabashedly step into their role and lead the Flock of God.
Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus was the greatest leader in history. Being His disciple means being like He was. In the series that follows, I’ll share some of the marks of great leaders. This list is by no means exhaustive. Nor do all great leaders exhibit each and every of these qualities. But they do appear repeatedly in leadership that’s a cut above.
What Leadership Is
There are oodles of definitions for leadership out there. It seems every new author wants to come up with his/her own new meaning. Let’s keep it simple. A leader is someone others follow. The person who thinks she/he is a leader but no one is following isn’t a leader; they’re just going for a walk.
A more technical definition for leadership is that it is the relational context in which someone enlists others in an effort to accomplish a common task. Personally, I find that definition for leadership inordinately boring. So, let’s try this: Leadership is influence. It’s the ability to influence others to contribute their time and effort in achieving something worthwhile.
Understood that way, leadership is both a talent and a skill.
Some people are natural leaders. That is, their personality is such that they have a talent to influence others. We’ve all seen this. Get any group of people together, and eventually someone rises as leader.
But leadership is also a skill that can be learned and grown. Great leaders know this and while they usually begin as natural leaders, in order to excel, they go after the skills that will make them even more effective.
We’ll develop this idea of Talent versus Skill in a later post.
Next time we’ll take a look at the Levels of Leadership; an important starting point for all leaders as we pause to take stock of where we are in our leadership.
 Luke 6:40
Lance Ralston is the founding pastor of Calvary Chapel of Oxnard, (Ventura County, California, USA). Lance has been married to Lynn for thirty-six years. They have three adult children and two grand-children. [READ MORE]