Foundational Principles of Leadership
The heart of a leader demands a love that will get involved in the struggles and messes that their followers face in life, a love that will confront out of a security drawn from knowing God and His purposes in our lives.
To accomplish the purpose of forming leaders, the leader former must have:
- a clear understanding of the nature of leadership
- a sound sense of self-awareness
- in-depth relationships
- the ability to confront
- the courage to take loving stands
- the willingness to be vulnerable
- the willingness to humble one’s self
- clarity of vision
- an understanding of truth
- the willingness to risk rejection
- insight into the heart of others
- sensitivity as to how to respond to others
Leaders must understand what leadership is.
Leadership is the act of influencing/serving others out of Christ’s interests in their lives so they accomplish God’s purposes for and through them.
Influence comes from serving by
Influence does not come by
Serving is slave leadership—a radical commitment to Christ in every follower’s life that impels the leader to act in love with truth no matter what it costs that leader (Mt. 20:26-27; John 13:16; Phil. 2:5-11; II Cor. 4:5).
The leader focuses on God’s purposes for and through the followers.
God’s purpose for the followers is to grow them into Christlikeness, and the leader is one of His prime instruments in guiding the followers to become more and more like Christ.
God’s purpose through the followers is to participate with Him in accomplishing the Great Commission in accordance with their gifts and opportunities.
The leader focuses on both the functional and the foundational in the followers’ lives.
The functional refers to the tasks the followers undertake and to their competence in light of their gifts, knowledge, and developed skills.
It refers to the followers’ competencies.
The foundational refers to the followers’ character, the core essence of their being on which all they do rests.
The foundational determines how well the leader and the followers function.
It relates to their character, that is, who exercises the knowledge and skills to get the vision accomplished.
It relates to their motives, that is, why they do what they do.
It relates to their actions, that is, what they do (for example whether they confront, avoid, forgive, overlook, exhort, lie, cheat, steal, say harsh words).
It relates to their method, that is, how they do what they do (for example use a method that communicates freely or seeks to hold power to themselves, sacrifices their own recognition or grasps platform for themselves).
It relates to their situation, that is where they act (for example acting appropriately in public in such a way that the leader and followers demonstrate a wisdom that is appropriate for the moment or living in private what they proclaim in public).
It relates to their timing, that is when they act based on the depth of relationship they have with the followers, the need in the moment, the particular lesson they seek to teach, and the need in their followers that must be met before they can become increasingly effective in serving Christ.
When the foundational and the functional integrate with consistency, leaders and followers will show an uncommon Christlikeness. In a very real sense, character controls competence. Leadership is not only getting something done; leadership is getting someone grown. Ultimately leadership is as much about leadership development and leader formation as it is about the act of leading itself. Leading is knowing where you want to go and getting others to go there with you.
Leading is getting a vision accomplished.
But leadership is about far more than this.
To get a vision accomplished and burn followers out is to fail as a leader.
To get a vision accomplished and build followers up is to succeed as a leader.
If you pursue leadership development (knowledge and skill development) and leader formation (character growth) in the action of accomplishing a specific vision, you will more than get that vision done.
Leaders must have a sound sense of self-awareness
Leaders must have a sound sense of self-awareness that they pass on to their followers. This means leaders must think of themselves in appropriate ways and teach their followers to do the same. Leaders must think of themselves as new mind leaders.
To do this they must understand several critical realities:
- new identity (Rom. 6:1-14)
- new resource (John 15:1-11)
- hardened hearts (Mark 6:52-8:33)
- new power (Eph. 5:18)
- new life (Rom. 6:4; 8:1ff)
- new role (John 13:1-17)
- new mind (Co. 3:1-2)
- new self (Rom. 12:3ff)
- new community (Rom. 12:9-15:1)
- new commitment (Mark 8:34)
- new hope (I Peter 1;13)
They must understand that they have everything for everything
(II Peter 1:2-4).
Leaders and followers must think of themselves in light of how God has gifted them (Rom. 12:3).
- God has given every believer a gift (Eph. 4:7ff).
- God plans to bless every believer through the exercise of these gifts (I Cor. 12:6).
- God expects leaders and followers to use his/her gift(s) in accordance with God’s grace (Rom 12:6-8).
Leaders are responsible to equip followers in the exercise of their gifts (Eph. 4:11-12).
Leaders must know how to
- equip their followers to exercise their gifts (Eph. 4:11)—mend nets (Mk. 1:19), restore sinners (Gal. 6:1), set bones
- develop their followers skills (12345)
- delegate, evaluate, and hold their followers accountable
- observe, correct, train, rebuke, and encourage
- wash feet—confront character needs and even remove followers when necessary, no matter how strong his/her skills may be or how many followers that follower may have
Leaders must have in-depth relationships
You cannot have an in-depth relationship with everyone you lead, but everyone on your team or in your sphere of responsibility should have some kind of in-depth relationship with a leader former. Some will be more effective than others as leader formers, but all must have someone ahead of them who seeks to know them at the heart level.
To know someone at the heart level, you must know that person’s
- reasons for anger
- identity needs—
where they feel they lack
the emptiness they’re trying to fill through achievements
the things that drive them and generate their expectations, both appropriate and inappropriate
To get to know someone, do a Life Story exercise halfway through their first semester on the field using the principles developed by the Center for Christian Leadership
Leaders must have the appropriate ability to confront
You need to determine your own willingness to confront when you must despite your adversity to it; know your primary and secondary styles. Understand confrontation biblically, not culturally or personally. Note different confrontation models for differing circumstances:
- inferior to superior (Nathan to David)
- superior to inferior (Jesus to Peter + James and John)
- equal to equal (Paul to Peter + Paul and Barnabas to one another.
Realize there are many levels/kinds of confrontation from gentle correction to direct command. Understand what it will cost not to confront and see which is the most costly, confronting or not confronting.
Leaders must have the courage to take loving stands
The courage to take loving stands relates directly to your willingness to confront. Taking stands doesn’t always involve confrontation, but it certainly can lead to it. Frequently, followers want their leader to take a stand even when they argue for a different position. Sometimes they are seeking for leadership from their leader as well as testing their leader’s willingness and courage to fulfill their responsibility and lead. Taking stands does not mean you should be inflexible; the secret to taking stands is knowing what is worth entering tension over and what isn’t. Make certain the stand you take is for the benefit of the person’s growth in light of the defined and agreed upon vision and goals, not just for policies, your preference or convenience.
Leaders must be willing to be vulnerable
Vulnerability is the willingness to let my followers see my needs, my fears, my feelings, and my growth in such a way that it edifies them and helps then grow in character and competence. Vulnerability must edify without manipulating. You will be vulnerable against your will because one of the key reasons why God has you in leadership is to grow you in public. Because of this, God will make certain that you have many opportunities to be vulnerable, and not infrequently, against your will. This is not because God wants to embarrass or shame you, but grow you in such a way that you model growth for others and influence them to know God through your struggles. When God makes you vulnerable, don’t run away and hide—everyone already knows what’s going on, and you will gain and keep respect by being appropriately accountable about your vulnerability.
Invite others into your pilgrimage in the way Paul did in the New Testament:
- he frequently gave his testimony, even though it wasn’t complimentary to him;
- he spoke of fear and trembling when coming to Corinth;
- he spoke of facing lions and fearing for his life in Ephesus;
- he spoke of not finding rest for his soul in Troas;
- he spoke of his inadequacy for God’s triumph to the Corinthians;
- he spoke of his weakness as his strength, that is, his vulnerability was the channel God most used to make a difference in others through him;
- he spoke of the weight of the churches upon him;
- he spoke of his need to confront Peter for the Gospel in Galatians;
- he spoke of his gratitude for funds in Philippians;
- he spoke of his need for prayer to the Colossians;
- he spoke of his need for funds to the Romans;
- he spoke of the hurt done to him by those who attacked him to Timothy;
- he spoke of his intense loneliness and need for others when he was deserted after his trial for his life in II Timothy.
Follow Paul’s lead and be vulnerable about your pilgrimage; it will make a great deal of difference in the lives of those who follow you.
Leaders must willingly humble themselves
Jesus washed feet because none of His followers had the currency to pay the emotional bill to serve when it came due. He knew this and chose to model self-humbling to them because He knew power plays, self-assertion, and competition would never accomplish His mission. Jesus knew power leadership may be short-term, productive leadership, but in the end it is actually destructive leadership. Jesus also knew His men would never change without some very direct teaching, but the teaching could not be in words; the teaching had to be in unforgettable actions that would make a permanent impact on them. We find the currency to humble ourselves where He found it—in a relationship and mission that meant more to Him than His image, His power, His drive to be right, His need to win, or anything else in the world. This relationship and mission was motivated by a love that only He can give. Leader formers must be growing in a love for Christ that frees them from every other dependency and releases them to humble themselves and serve.
Leaders must follow Jesus and model what they want their followers to be and do
Jesus alone was willing to do what the disciples should have fallen all over themselves to do. He knew exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it when He got up from the table, stripped to the waist, took a towel and a basin of water, and went from man to man washing their feet.
He knew who He was and what His authority over them was.
He knew the only way He could demonstrate true authority was to serve.
He knew they would never have true authority unless they became servants in exactly the same way as He did.
He knew He was living out what Paul came to describe in Philippians 2, the very same mental attitude the apostle calls us to have.
He knew only this mind-set can take up the cross and He had already established that fact that without the cross, the disciples would never be able to follow Him.
He consciously chose to model what He wanted them to become.
He deliberately commanded them to do what He did, to follow Him as a model.
If we are to have His same mind-set and follow His model, then we will be models for those emerging leaders whom we are forming. This is the way of obedience for us as leader formers.
Leaders must have clarity of vision
Vision focused our Lord’s love and gave Him a dream for His men. He saw them doing things they could never do apart from His love and His mission for them. He saw these ordinary fishermen, businessmen, and common villagers changing the world.
- He called them because of His vision for them
- He taught them because of His vision for them
- He challenged them because of His vision for them
- He cleansed them because of His vision for them
- He confronted them because of His vision for them
- He modeled for them because of His vision for them
- He commissioned them because His bigger vision of the world included them
Jesus was never off vision; He always knew what He was doing because He always knew why He was doing it. You must always be on vision, always forming your emerging leader’s character and competence in light of your vision—the vision Jesus has called you to pursue, to which they have responded and committed themselves with you. You must align your emerging leaders’ character and competence with the vision and keep calling them to it. You must also allow them to pursue the vision according to their peculiar (unique) God-given make up and not force them to pursue it according to yours; the point is to achieve the vision well, not to conform to the gifts and approaches of others.
If you force them to do what your do or to do things the way you do things is not vision, it’s control, and it’s the Lord’s responsibility to control others, not yours.
Leaders must have an accurate understanding of truth
Theology matters, and even more so in an emerging church. Consider the first five hundred years of the church when virtually all theological problems were considered and defined. There is great theological diversity in your area at this time and a limited ability to communicate or to have theological conversation across the culture. It is critical for solid theological development to mark the emerging church or the cults will have a field day in the future. Jesus knew exactly how to serve Peter because He knew theology—He knew the truth Peter need to know if Peter was going to be useful to Jesus in the course of his life. Truth was critical to Peter’s future. Jesus knew the right truth at the right moment; He knew to say the right thing that would make the right impact. Leader formers must both know truth and know how to use truth to edify those they are forming in such a way that they are impacted and changed for a lifetime. Emerging leaders need to understand the truths concerning God, the trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to this, they must need to understand at the heart level a core of truths concerning the ways of God in forming leaders through pilgrimage:
- factors of identity from Romans 6
- the reality of the flesh and the Spirit from Romans 7 and Galatians 5
- the nature of spiritual gifts including how to discern theirs and how to develop theirs and others
- the need for community
- the value of injustice, suffering, and grief in God’s hand and how to respond appropriately to each
- the truth depth of sin and its impact on them (sin hides in the nooks and crannies of our lives and masquerades itself as humanness and other destructive excuses
- the heart of love and forgiveness.
All of these truths must be communicated in the action to people who already think they know them and who, like the disciples, frequently are blind to their own blindness.
Leaders must be willing to risk rejection
Jesus clearly risked rejection by the leaders of His day, both Jewish and Roman. But He also risked the rejection of the very leaders He was forming, even as Peter rebuked and resisted Him; Jesus even asked them at one point if they would leave Him. Rejection comes whenever one person goes against the values, expectations, desires, or demands of others in such a way that those others feel challenged, threatened, and angry. Jesus went against the selfish values, core expectations, driven desires, and overt demands of His followers as represented by Peter who rebuked Him (Mark 8:33). Those engaged in leader formation must take the same risk and may even pay the same price of desertion and denial. Unless the leader former runs this risk—and even experiences it—he will not be effective in fulfilling his task. Like Jesus, the leader former must have the emerging leader’s needs and not his own success in view.
Leaders must have insight in the hearts of others
Leaders must understand the hearts of those they influence:
- insight comes first from Scripture
- insight comes from observing the experience of others
- insight comes from reading what others have learned
- insight comes from the counsel of others who have wisdom about the heart
- insight comes from personal experience and growth
Leader formers need to keep a journal of their growth, recording
- what they learned
- how they learned it
- what they felt while learning
- what overcame their resistance to learning
- what helped them through their learning experience
- what changed in the core of their being as a result of their learning
Insight into their own hearts—without projecting themselves on others—brings humility, sensitivity, patience, and understanding of the hearts of those they form. The formation of their own hearts gives them significant insight into the hearts of those they influence.
Leaders need sensitivity as to how to respond to others
They respond sometimes directly.
They respond sometimes indirectly.
They respond sometimes publicly.
This comes from knowing people by
- understanding their temperaments,
- respecting their concerns,
- believing in their gifts
- supporting their dreams
- challenging their flaws
Related Topics: Leadership