What do I need to look for in a potential leader?”
Most leaders have first hand experience of where they have raised people up into leadership only to later regret that decision. We don’t want to bottleneck leadership, but we don’t want to get ahead of God either. If you are like me, you spend a lot of time and head space on getting this issue right in your leadership.
Obviously, these are not exhaustive, but here are six critical indicators that will help you have an idea of what to look for in a potential leader. (These assume a person’s prior salvation through repenting for their sin and putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, baptism, fellowship and membership within the Church)
“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2
One of the main factors that God looks for in a potential leader is a humble spirit. One has to truly worship God before they can lead other people to God.
Every leader God ever raised up in scripture first had a humbling, repenting, worshipful experience with God that shaped their overall attitude into a humble spirit before God.
If you worship yourself (pride) all you will do is lead people to yourself and self-seeking pursuits. Worship is a humbling act of humility. When you worship God you acknowledge your limitations, sin, brokenness and your desperate need for God, His salvation on the cross, and His will to prevail in your life.
Humbleness agrees with God that there are more important things to life and in life than you. When you have a humble spirit, life becomes less about you, and more about what God desires to do in and through you. It becomes much less about what you are entitled or owed, and much more about your indebtedness to God and desire to serve Him and His people.
Some people manage to turn humility into a source of pride as they draw attention to themselves through their humility. The essence of humility is to take the focus off of you and place it on God and his desires. Humility is the branch from which the fruit of gentleness grows. People who have humility are gentle with others, not forceful, abrasive, or deceitful. You can be gentle and an assertive go-getter at the same time.
Over the years, I have seen people with great skills and competency have their pride and arrogance disqualify them as leaders and render their skills ineffective in spiritual leadership. Behind every move they make is an underlying agenda to draw attention to themselves. They put their own benefit over and above the benefit of the spiritual organization. And all too often, when a person of pride is confronted or their expectations are not realized, they become more aggressive or passive aggressive, or they completely shut down and disconnect. Pride is the author of the book some people live by title “Fight or Flight.”
One of the manifestations of humility comes when a person displays a teachable spirit. Humility says there is always something to learn. Humbleness requires surrendering to God and His design and plan for your life. Having a teachable spirit means that you are open to being developed in any way that moves you further into God’s design and plan for your life. People who have a teachable spirit are prone to consider the reality that other people can impart wisdom and instruction from which they could benefit. They are putty in the hands of God, waiting to be shaped and molded by God and the people whom God places over and with them.
The difference between confidence and pride is where a person places that confidence and what purpose it serves in their life. A person with a humble spirit will put confidence in God, His power, and purposes and use confidence as way to face the spiritual battles in their life and carry out the good work that God has begun in them. A person ruled by pride will put their confidence in themselves, their ideas, tenure, achievements, and pursuits and will use confidence as a way to intimidate, dominate, and a manipulate in order to compensate for deep rooted insecurity in their lives.
One way of testing for issues of pride is in seeing how a person responds and what they do after you have said “no.” to them.
Though people who have issues of pride may be very gifted, motivated, organized, and competent, their pride will turn their gifts towards the “dark-side” can ultimately go a long way in stealing from the kind of healthy leadership culture and effectiveness you are trying to develop.
Look for people with a humble, teachable, and gentle spirit.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5
One of the most destructive forces in Church leadership is division and disunity.
Yet, at the same time, having expectations for unity where God allows for freedom can be equally counterproductive. Every spiritual organization needs to search the scriptures faithfully and allow God’s counsel and revelation to determine what are going to be the essentials and non essentials of the values, beliefs and vision of the group. Once that is clearly established, every leader must be enthusiastically aligned to the essentials and allowed freedom in the nonessentials.
With nonessentials, shared vision will sometime need to mean that people agree to disagree and refrain from majoring on the minors. Non-essentials can be turned into essentials when agendas are made out of personal preferences. People who have a divisive spirit and an ax to grind to go with it, are the usual suspects when people gather around non essentials and make them into sources of strife and division.
One of the best ways to discern unity in shared vision is to ask the kind of questions that illumine what a person would do differently if given total freedom to run or shape the organization themselves. Their answers will go a long way at identifying areas of unity and potential disunity.
As many spiritual leaders have articulated, “Vision builds consensus, not the other way around.” Being crystal clear about the vision of your spiritual organization and raising up those who are enthusiastically aligned to the essentials of that vision will go a long way at promoting the effectiveness and health of the organization. Plans and strategies should bend and sway with flexibility, but vision should be well defined and consistent.
Raising up people who you think you can ultimately change, when it comes to areas of disunity in the essentials of vision, is a prescription for future problems. When God is ready, he will bring or identify the right person for the job. Never let the pressures of ministry expansion cause you to take short cuts on shared vision. Furthermore, no matter how large and complicated your spiritual leadership culture becomes, keep a close ear to the floor on your staff and the people with whom you do ministry so as to listen for areas of disunity. A small crack on the ceiling is much easier to fix before it turns into a huge one, but it takes more attention to spot it.
“Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day.” 1 Kings 8:61
Loyalty means that in your conversion, you have forever stepped onto God’s side of the cosmic battle between God and evil and you, first and foremost, will remain steadfast to God, His word, and purposes.
Loyalty means that you have the best interest at heart of the people who oversee you and team with you in ministry. Loyalty means that you put ministry process and parameters above opportunities for self centered pursuit. Loyalty means you care just as much about the relationship you have with those who oversee and team with you in ministry as you do about achieving goals and cranking out ministry product. Loyalty means that you give those who oversee you and team with you in ministry the benefit of the doubt. Loyalty means, within the bounds of integrity, you safeguard the leadership culture in which you operate and give honor and respect to those who oversee you and team with you in ministry. Loyalty means you value the integrity of the journey as much as the prize of the destination.
Loyalty is one of the most important ingredients to look for in a potential leader. Where there is a clear disregard or disrespect of the leadership culture of your organization or of those who make up the leadership, you can know for sure, you have identified a leadership candidate that is “no go for launch.” A person can have disagreements or areas of concern or counsel for the leadership and still be respectful.
One of the difficult dynamics of loyalty is that it often can’t be tested until you go into battle or face some kind of challenge with that person at your side. Sometimes you can tell a potential leader’s capacity for loyalty by the way they carry themselves in relationships and how they handle power and responsibility. Another way you can discern a potential leader’s capacity for loyalty is by investigating how they finished things up at the last place they worked or led. People who are loyal don’t walk away from things easily nor do they typically do so with carelessness.
Ministry challenges are often the tmes when true loyalty is tested. Loyalty is easy when things are sailing smoothly, but kick up the winds and the waves and you will quickly find out who is with you and who isn’t. You will find out who sees your relationship with them as an end, or a means to an end. People who are loyal will be careful, committed, and conscientious about what they do and how they work within the system and culture of your spiritual organization. They will see their relationship with you as one that transcends ministry and not depends on it. They will look for every reason to be for you when others are looking for ways to be against you.
“They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:20
Among our leadership at CRBC, we have a saying “Bad followship never equates to good leadership.”
One of the greatest hallmarks of a genuine Jesus follower isn’t that they carry around a huge Bible and parade their spirituality so that all can see and adore. Rather, it is that they are doing serious battle with the evil within and around and are passionately seeking to “work out” their salvation and grow some spiritual fruit on the vine. The godly sorrow that led them to repentance and thus salvation remains with them as they learn to, more and more, hate what is evil and love what is good. The greatest hallmark of a Jesus follower is that they are in fact following. And in turn that “following” results in self leadership. As in the book of James, faith without works is dead, so is leadership without followship.
Bad self leadership never leads to good people leadership.
People who are great followers are the kind of people you can tell are seriously fighting to grow spiritual in their lives, not for hype, but for true transformation that is evidenced in behavior. Words of correction or guidance don’t just roll of their back or become dismissed by cheap grace, but are seriously considered and put through the mill of discernment so they can be sure to hear God’s heart and desires.
People who are great followers understand that God created them to be in a constant state of spiritual progress. They embrace God’s growth movement in their life and value God’s life changing truth instead of consistently resisting it. People who are great followers have a healthy “fear” of the Lord. To be sure, none of us are always excited when God comes in and wants to move things around in our life. But in the end, great followers have an overall hunger and openness to putting more and more of their lives and living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
People who are great follower will take the heart the reality that you don’t really know the truth of Jesus Christ until you are actually live it as a lifestyle.
People who are great followers will have a meaningful, daily devotion life as they pray passionately study the scriptures and commit them to their heart and memory. They will take the Word of God seriously and see it as the ultimate authority for their living. People who are great followers will be life long learners and engaged in classes and small group offerings where they can spiritually grow in the context of meaningful relationships. They will be people who practice the spiritual disciplines of financial giving and serving on a consistent, regular basis. They will be people who desire and utilize opportunities to share the Gospel with the lost and worship the Savior in His sanctuary.
People who are great followers will be lovers of healthy accountability so that their leadership and service can be protected by Godly guidance and authority. And when they fail, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, their repentance will be louder than their sin.
“Be joyful always” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
A person with a negative, high maintenances personality will be one that will require more attention and energy than you will probably be able to give in a leadership context, especially if you raise them up for significant areas of leadership. Attitude reflects the mindset of the person, and the mindset of the person reflects how they interpret, react and, respond to all of life, especially challenges.
Leaders need to always keep in mind the chemistry and ethos of their ministry teams and staff. Bringing on board a person with a bad attitude will potentially pull a dark cloud over the ministry and the team that leads it. Nothing weighs down the work of God more perhaps than a bad attitude.
The greatest challenge with people who have attitude problems is that it is very hard to change them. Often times, only the power of the Holy Spirit can brighten up a person’s outlook, especially since no one can choose their attitudes for them. If we have a bad attitude, it is no one else’s fault but our own.
At CRBC, we typically move people who have considerable attitude issues into a discipleship mode, not a leadership mode. The context of leadership is not the most conducive environment in which to deal with and minister to serious attitude problems, nor is it the most appropriate context to deal with issues where a person is significantly lacking in other indicators mentioned in this article.
Waiting to raise only people up who have positive/joyful attitudes is like waiting for the ice cream to melt a little bit before you try to scoop it out; it’s so much easier, it doesn’t take so much energy, and it won’t make unnecessary messes that you are going to have to clean up instead of enjoying your ice cream.