The Christian Leader

By F. Joe Ellis

WHAT IS A LEADER? A leader is someone who leads. He or she is someone who . . . and the list goes on and on. Usually that list will include all the do’s and don’ts of leadership, which is almost always the ideal rather than the practical. However, as one well-known author wrote on the subject, “It’s much easier to describe what leaders do than to describe what they are.”

Good leadership is something much easier to identify when we see it than it is to describe or put into practice. What leaders do is a direct result of what they are or are not. A person’s results in leading an outreach ministry, Sunday school department, or music ministry will be determined more by what he is than what he does.

This is the one area where Christian leadership differs from secular leadership. Because someone is a schoolteacher, a business manager, or a plant supervisor does not automatically qualify him for Christian leadership. While his skills and abilities may be extremely useful and needed, ability is not the number one quality or qualification in Christian leadership.

I have known people who were greatly skilled and seemingly God sent only to find out that their inability to get along with people made all of their other abilities useless. Because of their attitude
and personality, no one would follow their leadership, even though they had the skills and know how for the task at hand.

If you want to know if you are a leader or not, simply look over your shoulder and see if you have any followers. If not, the first place to look is in the mirror. Could it be that it is not your leadership that people are resisting but you–your attitude, your personality, your demeanor?

A study was done to research why companies fired managers and top executives. It went back over the past twenty years. The findings were startling. Eighty five percent of managers and top executives during this twenty-year period were fired simply because they could not get along with the people they were leading. Only fifteen percent lost their jobs because of skill or other reasons. Of the remaining eighty-five percent, all were well qualified and knew their job well, but they could not lead people because of their inability to get along with them.

Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist, once said, “I will pay more for a man with the ability to lead others than for any other product.” John D. Rockefeller admitted, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.”

The importance of this single quality in those who are appointed to leadership should not be minimized. The most effective leaders in the church will he those who get along well with people.

Position alone does not make a leader. A pastor may have people with tremendous ability in the church. But let me share a word of warning. Before a pastor considers a person for a position of
leadership, observe him. Does he have a personality that attracts people to him? Does he get along well with people?

It has been my experience that in Christian leadership people are leaders long before they are given a title or a position. Leaders draw people to themselves. People enjoy being around them. People love them and, because of that love, put confidence in their leadership.

When we seem to be frustrated because we are not being followed, the first place to begin an investigation of why, is to examine our own attitude, personality, and behavior. A good attitude check can help us become more effective leaders.

I am aware that such a personal examination is not a cure-all. However it could be the thing that begins the healing process and turns failure into success.

Just as Christianity is a choice of the will, so it is that people choose to follow leaders. While we are not to be people pleasers, we are to be people lovers. A Christian leader will never effectively lead those he or she does not love.

More often than not, people will follow a leader who they know genuinely loves them. Because the church is made up of all types of people from all types of backgrounds, there will be a variety of methods of leading people.

Style, level of intelligence, methods of motivation, personal dedication, and involvement will differ greatly. However, there will be one trait that all successful Christian leaders possess. That is the ability to get along well with others, which is a result of genuinely loving those they lead. We must remember, people are more important than the program.

In conclusion, Christian leadership is influencing God’s people to do the task at hand and to do what is necessary to see God’s purpose fulfilled on the earth. Influencing people to follow one’s leadership is most successfully achieved by those who genuinely love people and demonstrate that love by their ability to get along with them.