The rise and fall of societies and institutions has depended almost exclusively upon the quality of their leadership. George Barna, who has spent years researching the church in America, claims that the most serious weakness he has found within the church in the last fifteen years is the lack of leadership. Few would disagree that strong, bold, innovative, and godly leadership is in short supply.
During the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee said, “I believe our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. These men will go anywhere and do anything if properly led. There is the difficulty of proper commanders.” Lee knew that ultimate victory rested on the quality of leaders who led the troops. He wanted men with administrative skills, diligence, imagination, initiative, resourcefulness, and the ability to elicit the best in other men. Like Lee, people everywhere are looking for leaders. So, what does one look for in a leader?
Don’t put too much stock in outward appearance. Externally leaders often appear very different. Hitler, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and General George Patton would all be excellent subjects for a study in contrasts, except for the one thing they had in common—they were all leaders. God has used uncultured farmers, crude fishermen, and simple shepherds, as well as gifted scholars, astute politicians, and military tacticians to lead His causes. While most of us look at the outward appearance, God looks at the core of the person’s character. He looks for certain inner traits that will turn a lad into a leader. As a matter of fact, research shows that internally leaders have certain characteristics in common. Let me list them for you:
Leaders have clear-cut objectives. Leaders know what they want to achieve, why they want to achieve it, and how they are going to achieve it. They know that you will only achieve what you aim for, and so they keep focused on their goals and objectives.
- Leaders know themselves. Leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They lead from their strengths and bring the right people around them to help where they know they have weaknesses.
- Leaders are persistent. They have staying power. They will sometimes give a lifetime of dedicated service just to see their objectives fulfilled.
- Leaders are learners. They never stop learning and growing. They have an insatiable appetite to expand their knowledge and learn how to lead more effectively.
- Leaders have the ability to attract and energize people. Leadership is influence. Leaders have the ability to influence others to accomplish a common goal.
- Leaders are risk takers. They don’t fear failure. They are willing to fail if they can learn something from it. They aren’t afraid to take risks with resources, ideas, and change if they believe good can come from it.
- Leaders are followers. No true Christian leader is a law unto himself. He asks others to follow him only as he follows Christ. He lives in obedience to the Word and those to whom he is accountable.
Some who are reading this right now are looking for a leader for your church or organization. Look for these core traits. Don’t be too caught up in outward appearance, or you may miss a David, Israel’s greatest king. Don’t be deceived by a hesitant speaker, or you may miss a Moses, Israel’s greatest leader. Don’t be turned off by a “thorn in the flesh,” or you may miss a Paul, the church’s greatest missionary. But look inside. Look for the right kind of heart. That’s where you will find a true leader.