…then what are they EXPECTED to LEARN? This is the second post in the series, if leaders are learners… In this series I will explore the art of leadership and what exactly leaders need to know to be effective. I will examine common practices of leaders, a few traits of leaders and what happens when a leader stops learning. In this post, I will be defining leadership from a Christian perspective, feel free to join the conversation and post your experiences in leadership in the comments section.
Before we begin with traits of a leader, we must define what we call, traits. There are three broad types of traits, Biological, Cultural and Physical. Biological traits, involve genes and characteristics of an organism. Cultural traits encompass the characteristics of a culture group. And Physical traits are specific to an object and its characteristics. There are many other types of traits, however we will look at Physical traits. So, if physical traits pertain to ones characteristics, then what characteristics are needed to be an effective leader?
When talking about leadership, the question that always arises is when is one a leader? To put it a different way; Does one learn to become a leader? Or is one a born leader? Personally I believe both, a leader is born and one can learn to be a leader. Born leadership is seen in many ways, for instance, my daughter is a leader in the sense that she can command my attention at any moment of the day. My daughter is also learning leadership when trying to do the right thing if other boys and girls are disobeying the teacher.
Culture tells us that leaders are good-looking, charismatic and generally out-going people, however when we look at Scripture and even history, leaders come from a myriad of backgrounds and experiences. The Bible gives many examples of unlikely leaders from Moses, Gideon, a Prostitute to Peter. Even History tells of ordinary men shaking the cultures around them from Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman and many more!
For the purpose of this post let’s look at some KEY traits that are essential for effective leadership. Here is a list, non-exhaustive, that I have come up with.
Traits: (Some people are born with these naturally and others can LEARN these.)
Integrity: The NUMBER ONE trait in leadership, and life, is integrity. Integrity is in its simplest form is practicing what you preach. Who you are when no one is looking defines your integrity. Are you consistent in how you teach the Scriptures and how you live out the Scriptures?
Humility: Leaders are often seen as cocky or over-bearing. A humble leader accepts mistakes, instead of passing the blame on to those under them. Humility, when practiced produces godly leaders. Matthew 23:12 – For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Teachable: Do you know it all? A leader who thinks he knows it all will be an ineffective leader. Those under your leadership will begin to seek counsel/advice from someone willing to learn with others. LEADERS ARE LEARNERS!
Passion: Are you passionate about what you are leading? There are many in positions of leadership who have become apathetic to what they are leading. If you are not passionate about where you are, maybe it’s not where you are supposed to be. Your leadership will be effected if you are not passionate about your area of leadership. P.S. those under you will see how passionate you are, or how not passionate you are about your leadership.
Communicator: This one is debatable. Before I realized that I had been running from my call to the ministry (for another post), I was not a good communicator. In fact, I was deathly afraid of getting up in front of anyone to speak. But when I get up to preach a sermon, or teach a Bible study class, something clicks. I KNOW that God has called me to teach and my ability to do so is FROM HIM ALONE. With that said, should I neglect to practice teaching? NO, just because I have the gift of teaching doesn’t mean that I should not practice and hone my speaking skills.
Creative: Another debatable trait. Most leaders would say they are creative; however they do the exact same things every year expecting the same results (definition of insanity, Albert Einstein). There are some leaders with natural creativity and others who surround themselves with creative people; both of these scenarios are good. Even if you are not creative you can learn! Go to creative places, a park, coffee shop, movies, listen to indie music etc.
Flexible: This is a broad trait that I am using for not only flexibility but for also embracing change. Things CHANGE. If asked, most ineffective leaders will tell you that, if you don’t keep up with the changing culture around you, you’ll be left behind. It’s especially true in ministry. Have you ever been a part of a church or an organization that is playing catch up with the culture? Flexibility in leadership is a must to keep up with change.
Encourager: Plain and simple if you neglect encouraging those around you, they will leave. Leaders encourage not discourage.
Servant hood: The best leaders are servant leaders. Serve those around you instead of making those around you serve you. A professor of mine, from Boyce College, taught me an invaluable lesson. 1. Show up early to help set up, 2. Engage those around you through service, and 3. Stay late helping clean up. Thanks Dr. Adams!
Confident: Be confident in what you are leading not arrogant. If you believe in those you are leading you can be confident that they will be more apt to follow. If you’re not confident, your followers will begin to wonder if you are the right person for the job. Check out Philippians 1:6.
Visionary: Do you have a clear vision for your leadership area? If not, seek first the kingdom of God and rely on Him to provide the vision. There are many leaders who have vision but lack certain abilities to that particular vision through. This does not disqualify you as a leader. It is merely a chance to learn and grow in your leadership. Find a mentor or coach in the ministry and learn all you can about specific ways to facilitate the vision you have.
If you have other traits that you would like to share add them to the comments section below!