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This is part 5 of a series of posts on leadership. In this post we continue our investigation of the qualities great leaders demonstrate. Not every great leader possesses all these traits, but they recur among those we commend as great leaders.

Humbly Confident

Romans 12:3 • For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Confidence is crucial for a leader because followers can sense a lack of it and that undermines trust. There’s an unspoken agreement of trust between leader and follower. No one follows a leader who can’t be trusted. Well, let me re-state that. There are oodles of untrustworthy leaders people follow. But they follow because they DO trust them, undeserving as they are. The point here is that—when trust is broken, people STOP following.

When a leader is uncertain, tentative, overly cautious, doubtful, it creates those same things in those they are leading. A leader’s confidence assures the team things are okay and it’s safe to proceed. But confidence can easily morph over into arrogance, especially when there have been successes in the work. Arrogance is the great danger of success. Many good leaders have been ruined by their success. Think King Saul, Solomon, and Nebuchadnezzar. A great leader is confident, but that confidence is rooted in his/her dependence on God. They can do all things through Christ who strengthens them, but nothing without.

Humility and confidence seem to be opposites but they don’t need to be. I encourage you to feed confidence by thinking deeply on who and what you are IN Christ, and to nurture humility by taking communion often; remembering what it cost to make you who you are in Christ.

Holy Ambition

This trait of great leaders brings together the humble confidence we just looked at with the earlier trait of having a God-ordained vision.
The word “ambition” has a negative connotation for many. Lucifer was ambitious and it made him into Satan. Ambition is often the motive of the villain in movies and books. But ambition doesn’t have to be evil; it can be for good, too. In 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul says the desire to be an elder is a good ambition.

Great leaders possess drive. They know their vision is worth pursuing and are determined to go after it. That drive is what propels them through hardship, challenge, and difficulty. It keeps them focused and intentional. But it’s not a selfish ambition for mere personal success. It’s a sense of responsibility, a call to faithfulness because it’s an assignment from God.  And the bottom line: It’s all about God’s glory, not the leader’s.

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