Elements of Christian Leadership

Like me, you have probably heard lots said and read lots about leadership.  Some time ago I decided I wanted to create a framework that summarised what Christian Leadership is all about.  The diagram described in this post is my attempt.  My thinking is that it captures all of the elements of Christian leadership.  In addition it describes how they connect together and how all of that connects with the communities in which we lead.

As ever, there is nothing new under the sun and the only thing original about this diagram is the arrangement.  I am particularly indebted to James Lawrence and Bill Hybels for their insights which each make up roughly half the diagram.

The arrows in the diagram show how elements build logically, rather than describe a timeline.  For example, it is no use having great competence if character or calling are missing.  However, God could be developing all of these at the same time.






As with all of the elements there is so much that could be said.  The key thing here is that a Christian leader is first chosen by God.  First and foremost they are not a leader, but a child of God.  If their whole identity is wrapped up in them being a leader, then things can get messy really quickly.  Being chosen by God will also lead us into community with others who have also been chosen.  This is true because the more more we become aware of who God is and who he desires us to be, the more we realise that we need others to help.






When living in Christian community, whatever that may look like, an individual may then sense that God is wanting them to be a leader.  This comes in many different forms, but is usually referred to as a ‘calling’.  As with the first stage, this is not a decision that originates with the individual, but with God; we do not choose to become a leader, He calls us.  The next most important element of Christian leadership is ‘character’.  Books have been written on this item alone, but some examples here might include honesty, integrity, courage, gentleness, and diligence.  Last in this section is competence.  For some this might be more important than anything else.  However, for a Christian leader, the previous 3 Cs need to come further up the list.  That said, leaders do need to have the right skills for the job, for example, people management, change management and communication.

The community element here comes in terms of recognition   It is not enough for the individual to see these things in their own life, others must see it too.






The last elements in the framework involve the task at hand.  This might be conceived narrowly (lead a one-off event), but most likely will be very broad (lead an organisation or a ministry).  The task phase starts with a problem, or as Bill Hybels would call it, a ‘Holy Discontent’.  If when a person looks at the world, they see nothing wrong and nothing that needs changing, the chances are that they are not a leader.  In reality there is much that needs to be done and God speaks to us and stirs our hearts so that we find ourselves emotionally moved by something that we believe to be a problem.  Examples here could include churches not filling their potential, kids disconnecting with the wider society or families not having enough food.

Of course, an individual who only ever sees problems is likely just to be a moaner and not a leader.  Leaders don’t just see problems, they also have a picture of what it could and should be like.  This involves envisaging how things might be different.  More information about this phase can be found here.

The very last element is the plan of how to get from here to there; from the problem state to that described by the picture.  This is often overlooked with leaders thinking that describing the problem and the picture is enough.  However, getting from A to B needs a plan.  That is not to say that the leader comes up with the plan all by themselves, leadership is a team game after all.  What they need is some idea of how the journey might happen, even if that plan simply comprises a list of names of people who can make the change come to life.

The community involvement here is agreement.  It is no use a leader having all three of these things firmly settled if those in the rest of the organisation do not agree.  Therefore one of the task of the leader is to communicate these three Ps so that everyone else can get on board for the journey.

It’s a lot to cover in one post, but hopefully it all hangs together.  Are there any changes you would make?  Are there any things you would add?

Here are a couple of books which have say more about each of the elements in the framework.

Growing Leaders: Reflections on Leadership, Life and JesusHoly Discontent: Fueling the Fire That Ignites Personal Vision

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