Learning How To Lead

It’s hard to be a leader.

Especially a leader who’s attempting to biblically lead his/her congregation or organization. There’s so much that’s involved. You have to take a lot of things into consideration in order to be a good leader—whatever that means. What does it mean to be a “good leader,” anyways? Are you more patient? Are you more devoted to self-improvement and development? Where’s the scale that all leaders are measured on? WE NEED TO KNOW.

Anyone who’s been in a position to lead has thought about these things—the criteria for success, the things to check off the list that may or may not bring you to the next level to empower whoever you happen to be leading. How do you stay above reproach (according to the Apostle Paul)? There’s so much to consider and know. This is your challenge from 1 Timothy 3:2:

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

What a list. But that’s okay. There will always been something to learn. The Lord is constantly making us new and creating something beautiful out of aspiring leaders. So whether you’re a pastor, a manager, a small group leader or even an aspiring leader, here are some lessons that we’ve gleaned from experience and from people much wiser than we are.

Correction is crucial.

Stay gracious

You can’t always be the nice guy. Seems like an easy thing to say, but people are depending on you for character, personal or career development. In order to push people, you have to provide feedback and feedback is scary. But correction is crucial in order to love people well. In Hebrews 12:11, it says:

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

It takes a lot of wisdom to find the right balance of truth and grace. Timothy Keller says it very eloquently here:

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”

Be joyful in success.

Stay joyful

A good rule of thumb? Be joyful in success, be celebratory when you win! It’s so easy to overlook the good things that people do all day long—after all, it’s only when something goes wrong that you have to stop what you’re doing to address it. But believe us, it goes a long way when you take a moment to celebrate tiny victories.

Celebrating affirms and honors people, and it motivates others who are striving for similar outcomes. And let’s be honest. It’s a real cool thing to do.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

Ask questions.

Stay exploring

While a leader has to humbly lead from the back as a gardener to nurture relationships and conditions, any organization or friendship also needs an explorer. Why? Explorers lead from the front, searching for ways to push those that follow them to the next level.

The best way to do this is to ask questions. Maybe that’s an in-your-face question to get someone to confront sin—or a less-substantial instance—or maybe it’s just a thoughtful question about an upcoming experience or project. What’s next for you? Why are we here? What’s the Lord trying to tell us? There is always, always, always a question to ask that will drive people closer to truth and closer to Jesus, and more than likely they’re the same thing.

Asking questions inspires others to ask questions. BAM. And what better way to create an atmosphere of learning?

“Every man ought to be inquisitive through every hour of his great adventure down to the day when he shall no longer cast a shadow in the sun. For if he dies without a question in his heart, what excuse is there for his continuance?” Frank Moore Colby

Be vulnerable—on purpose.

Stay intentional

No one wants to be an afterthought. Be intentional with the way you lead and love the people who are following you. It’s hard (!)—especially in a leadership role. Touch base with people. Maybe that a brief text at night to ask how their walk with the Lord is going. Maybe that’s something more formal, like a handwritten letter (one of our favorites), or take someone out for coffee or lunch, etc.

Be vulnerable—on purpose. You can never speak truth into someone’s life if they don’t trust you. As a leader, it’s your job to nurture that relationship, fight for a presence in their life and trust them just as much as they trust you. Was anyone ever as vulnerable as the Apostle Paul was?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10