Twenty years ago I served as senior pastor of a mega-church. I often felt insecure and struggled with knowing how to make decisions and lead effectively, especially when there were differing viewpoints. One day one of our team members said, “Go find a leader you trust and ask him to mentor you.”
I took his suggestion seriously. During the next few years, I sought out leaders I trusted and learned from them. I also read dozens of books on leadership. What I learned was life changing and gave me confidence to lead.
Recently I made a list of ten things I learned about healthy leadership. I really wish I had known these things twenty years ago—it would have saved others and me from much pain! Because God calls both men and women to leadership, the following list applies to leaders regardless of gender. In fact, you do not even need to be a leader to benefit from this list. These ten principles apply to everyday living for every healthy Christian.
Here’s my list to help prevent you from making the same mistakes I made:
1. A healthy leader’s security and significance comes from knowing he is accepted and loved by God, not from the approval or lack of approval of the people he leads (1 John 3:1).
2. A healthy leader knows he is called by God to serve in leadership. Otherwise, if someone can talk him into it, someone else can talk him out of it (Galatians 1:10).
3. A healthy leader focuses on building healthy teams and recognizes that everyone else is not necessarily wired like him. Unity with diversity makes the most effective team. Walt Disney may have had the idea for Mickey Mouse, but it was his brother Roy Disney who actually made it happen.
4. A healthy leader knows the sphere (or field) that God has assigned to him and is confident leading in this sphere. He refuses to meddle in fields led by others (2 Corinthians 10:13).
5. A healthy leader knows his role of leadership on each team where he serves. On one team, he may be the primary leader, on another he supports someone else’s leadership, and on another he is a team player. A healthy leader is secure in filling various roles.
6. A healthy leader models biblical decision-making and teaches the teams he leads to make good decisions. This includes making decisions that honor the Lord, honor the supportive leaders around him, honor the people who will be affected by the decision, and honor what God has placed on his heart. The process of decision-making can be more important than the actual decision (Acts 15).
7. A healthy leader knows that conflict and criticism are par for the leadership course. Conflict cannot be ignored, but needs healthy sensitive confrontation to bring resolution. Even if it seems irrational, criticism usually has at least one to two percent of truth in it. These nuggets of truth should be used as an impetus to make us better leaders.
8. A healthy leader realizes he is a servant and leads like a spiritual father. He is not threatened by those on the team who may be more gifted than he is. He will empower them, release them and protect them.
9. A healthy leader learns to receive and implement vision. He listens to God and to wise counselors, builds a healthy team and understands God’s timing and process in seeing the vision become a reality.
10. A healthy leader focuses on the Kingdom of God as the final goal rather than on his enterprise, church or ministry. Healthy leaders have eternal perspectives and make their relationships with God a priority (Matthew 6:33).
There you have it. It took me twenty years to learn these ten leadership truths, and I am still in God’s leadership school. The day we die is the day we stop learning.