July 3, 2013

Defining Leadership


Over the last 30 years I've seen a lot of leaders rise and fall.

I've seen unassuming leaders succeed and great talents fail. It has been, to say the very least, a strange curiosity to watch it all unfold over the years. Only in retrospect could all of this been foreseen. Still we continue to search for leadership secrets like the 49er's of old panned for gold. The title or designation of leader comes to us from many unexpected and unrelated ways.

Sometimes a great invention turns a person into a leader. Sometimes a great idea defines the leader. The invention of a great product from which a great company emerges brings its founder into leadership in their particular field. On many occasions it is a great cause that forges a leader. In critical moments it is a great crisis that causes a leader to rise out of obscurity.

It's strange, but to become the leader of the free world you need to be able to win elections. This also qualifies you to be commander-in-chief without ever having known combat or even studied military strategy.

We attribute the status and qualities of leadership to individuals who have found themselves in leadership roles without perhaps ever demonstrating any significant leadership acumen.

We call pastors leaders. It's a heavy burden. Rarely is it quantified. Pastors are the best of people, but not often the best of leaders.

It is important for us to reclaim the role and definition of leadership, especially when it comes to the movement of Christ and the revolution He started over 2000 years ago.

What exactly do we mean by leadership? How is it defined in our particular field with such eternal significance?

We lead in time for a timeless cause. We come to this role from so many paths and motivations. We must ensure that our primary role not be surrendered to meaningful but secondary applications.

Some of us as pastors are therapists who know that God is the great healer

This is a noble intention and certainly people need healing. We live in a broken world and wholeness is essential for healthy community and a people strong enough to advance a great cause. Still, a healer is different than a leader, though great leadership strangely promotes a culture where healing and wholeness thrive.

Others become pastors from a more academic path

They love studying the Scriptures and suffer through preaching it. Others suffer as well. They suffer not because the teaching of the Scriptures isn't essential, but because there is nothing more deadening to the soul than written Word without life. When our hermeneutic becomes theological rather than missional we lose our way. A teacher is different than a leader. Leaders always teach us — they teach us how to live.

There are also those who see leadership as a responsibility to preserve the good and resist the world.

They would protect us from an evil world and create refuges for God's people. They teach the truth and comfort us with the certainty and security of our beliefs. They lead those who believe and see those who do not believe as the enemy. The church is our escape from the world. We are the Alamo. We need Guardians, but they are different than leaders. Guardians protect the past and preserve the past. Leaders learn from the past and build on it.

After three decades of stumbling through this leadership journey, there is one theme that prevails: leaders create human communities.

  • Leaders do not fear the future; they create it.
  • Leaders can only create a world that reflects their inner world.
  • Leaders do not have a vision of the future; they personify that future.
  • Leaders live in the future they invite us into.
  • Leaders do not preserve culture; they create culture.
  • Leaders bring healing when they find healing.
  • Leaders become great teachers when they become great learners.
  • Leaders speak for those who do not have a voice.
  • Leaders use their power to protect the powerless.
  • Leaders stand for those who have no place to stand.
  • Leaders make outsiders insiders.
  • Leaders are guardians of movement, not guardians of culture.

Whoever is creating the emerging culture is the leader, period. They are the leaders of the future because they are creating the future. We must become the explorers and pioneers of the future. 

Let’s get there first, plant our flags, claim the future in the Name of Christ, and lead humanity into a future rich with faith, hope, and love.

CC Image (Adapted) • David Spinks on Flickr
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David C. McNair
So glad you mentioned the Holy Spirit. I certainly hope God has something to do with leading. At my church we look for a pastor that preaches and is the spiritual leader, nothing else. We have a huge amount of lay leadership in our congregation and our spiritual leader does not have to waste his time looking at books, attending every
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meeting, and advising our people on what to do. He respects God the Holy Spirit and his congregants. David C. McNair
1 year7 months ago · ( 0 )

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