“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
Leadership is critical in ministry as it is for any organization. The success of any ministry will rise and fall on its leadership. Weak ministries can succeed with strong leadership, but strong ministries cannot succeed with weak leadership. If we are to achieve success in the ministries that God has called us to, then we must become effective leaders in order to fulfill His purpose through us.
John Maxwell, a leading authority on leadership, says that while some people are born with natural leadership ability, leadership is also a skill that everyone can learn and develop. Therefore, it is important for pastors and church leaders to continue to learn and develop their leadership skills. A good leader never stops growing and learning.
It is my belief that if pastors and church leaders work at developing the following 7 leadership skills they will become more effective leaders.
Effective communication is perhaps the most important skill that a leader can possess. Without good communication skills it will be difficult for a church leader to communicate Biblical Truth or influence their followers. Being able to speak clearly, succinctly and effectively enables a leader to motivate, encourage and direct their followers to necessary or desired courses of action. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” There are 3 skills leaders should develop to become better communicators. First, develop your public speaking and presentation skills. Leaders are frequently called upon to speak to large groups or present solutions to church issues. If your speaking and presentation skills are poor then your results will likely be as well. Second, learn to be clear & concise. Leaders often confuse people when they ramble on about something or wander from the topic at hand. And third, and most important, remember to communicate to be understood, not to be heard. If people only hear your message but do not understand it then they will not be educated, motivated or encouraged by it.
Many people become leaders because they are able to communicate and articulate issues, ideas and solutions to others in a way that inspires confidence and trust in their ability to lead. But being able to listen carefully and thoughtfully to the ideas of others helps a leader make better decisions and manage the resources of the church more effectively. It is often said that God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason! The Bible says in James 1:19 that we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” Furthermore, in Proverbs 1:5 it says, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.” Consequently, a good leader is a good listener and good listening results in added knowledge and understanding. It can also prevent us from speaking incorrectly or poorly (e.g. – putting our foot in our mouth!). A good listener also demonstrates concern and care for others.
Decision making is probably the main factor that separates good leaders from great leaders. Often, great leaders emerge because of the way that they handled a crisis and demonstrated wisdom in the process. The Bible says that, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom.” (Proverbs 4:7) Notice that it says wisdom and not knowledge. Knowledge is simply having information about something. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the appropriate application of that knowledge. As leaders we must continue to learn and acquire knowledge (Proverbs 10:14), but we are also called to use wisdom in applying that knowledge as we lead. How does a leader get wisdom? Ask God for it. God says He will give us His wisdom if we ask for it (Matthew 7:7-8)!
- Follow Through
I read a study some years ago where CEO’s of major corporations were asked if they had any regrets about their leadership over the years. The most common response they shared was a lack of follow through. In other words, when they delegated tasks or responsibilities to others they had failed to follow up to ensure they were done correctly or on-time. They all recognized that many problems could have been avoided if they had taken the time to simply follow up on what they had given to others to do to make sure it was on target. Assuming things are on schedule and lack of follow through had frequently led to poor results. Leaders must hold others accountable by following up so as to ensure what they expect to be done, gets done! Proverbs 14:15 says, “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”
Leaders are wise to recognize that not all of their followers will agree with them 100% of the time. There are always different perspectives on most issues and so leaders must be flexible. Leaders must be willing to consider other points of view and solutions while holding on to their principles. Effective leadership requires learning which battles to fight and which ones not to. There are often many ways to accomplish the same goal. Consequently, leaders should remain flexible and weigh all the options before making any critical decisions. The Bible says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Everyone needs encouragement. Effective leaders understand that a few encouraging words can go a long way in developing people, raising up leaders and growing an organization. Criticism and harsh words, on the other hand, tear people down and hinder organizational progress. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica to encourage them with these words, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Therefore, speak encouraging words to those you lead – it will inspire them to do better. Show encouragement to others – it will create more effort in the future. And don’t criticize a good effort, praise it! It will pay big dividends!
One of the marks of a great leader is having a passion for what they are doing. Another word for that is commitment. Leaders must be committed to the goals and vision God has given to them and do whatever it takes to succeed within Godly principles and behavior. Effective leaders NEVER, EVER give up! They know that, “God’s work done in God’s way will have God’s supply in God’s time!” Proverbs 16:3 confirms this and says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”
(From Chapter 4 in our Management for Church Leaders™ Volume #2 Training Manual, ©2016)