Leadership Styles

What’s Your Leadership Style?


“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up”

Ephesians 4:11-12


God has called each leader to lead according to their own abilities in order to prepare God’s people for works of service and to build up the body of Christ.  How we each lead, however, is a matter of personal style and comfort.  As leaders, we typically lead, manage, and operate in a way that suits our own personality, giftedness and experiences.  In some circumstances the way we lead can be very effective while in others they can be ineffective.  Understanding our leadership style and the styles of others, therefore, can help us to be more effective in how we apply our leadership abilities in various situations.

According to George Barna in his book “A Fish Out Of Water” (Integrity Publishers, 2002), there are 4 styles of leadership that emerge from his research on business and church leaders. First, there is the Directing Leader. This type of leader is typically a visionary person who focuses on action and results, not details. Second, there is the Strategic Leader.  This type of leader likes to analyze information, evaluate different scenarios, and develop and shape plans to achieve goals. Third, there is the Team-Building Leader.  This type of leader is more concerned with people relationships and the inclusion of people and likes to organize people to achieve goals. Finally, there is the Operational Leader. This type of leader develops processes to implement plans and likes to build systems to track and monitor results.

According to George Barna, each leader tends to be dominant in one of these 4 styles.  However, all leaders have some aspects of each style and are often able to use each one as needed. Nevertheless, he suggests that leaders surround themselves with other leaders who have different leadership styles. In this way they will complement your leadership style and will often see things in a way that you do not. Scripture reminds us that, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22).

It is critically important that leaders also understand situational leadership. A leader’s dominant leadership style will not always be effective in ALL situations. So leaders must first determine which leadership style will be most effective for a given situation. For example, if a leader is setting a new course for their ministry then a leader should use the Directing leadership style because action is needed.  If on the other hand a leader needs to develop plans for their ministry they should use the Strategic leadership style because analysis and planning are needed. If a leader needs to resolve conflict in their ministry then they should apply a Team-Building leadership style because it involves working with people. Finally, if a leader wants to incorporate new technology in their ministry, that would call for using the Operational leadership style because systems or processes are needed.

While any leader can employ every one of these 4 leadership styles themselves, they should consider letting another leader on their team who has the appropriate leadership style as their dominant one manage the situation.  So if a situation calls for the analysis of a problem and the development of a plan, the leader could delegate the leadership of that project to another leader who has the Strategic leadership style as their dominant one. This would likely produce the most effective outcome.

It is also important to keep in mind that applying the wrong leadership style in a situation has consequences. First, your leadership could be resisted if it doesn’t fit the situation. Second, you could damage your credibility if your handling of the situation fails because you used the wrong style. Third, you could create unwanted conflict that arises from using the wrong style to resolve an issue. And finally, the ministry could stagnate or suffer because the style that was used does not resolve the problem at hand.

So what’s your dominant leadership style? For some of you it may be obvious. But for others it may not be. There is a test you can take to determine your dominant leadership style. Click here to take the test.

As a leader, knowing your leadership style can help you to be more effective in managing people and projects within your ministry. Applying them correctly will also enable you to be more effective as a leader.


(From Chapter 3 in our Management for Church Leaders™ Volume #1 Training Manual, ©2010.)
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