It is the time of year where we naturally pause to reflect on the previous year and begin dreaming about the next one. People are writing their lists of top books they read, doing annual reviews with employees, and setting goals for the next year. Sometimes these times of reflection yield half-hearted resolutions that vanish by Spring. Other times they become incredible moments of revelation that bring seismic changes to our lives.
This season of reflection for me was the latter. I had a major self-discovery, followed by an equation I need to follow in order to provide godly leadership in my church and all areas of life.
The self-discovery was my bent towards being a people-pleaser. It is debilitating as leader. I must love people, but I cannot let my leadership be driven by the applause meter or nodding heads. People-pleasing typically ends with nobody happy, the leader frustrated, and the vision off course. To combat the people-pleasing tendencies, I believe the Lord has shown me three elements, found in the leadership of Jesus and others throughout Scripture, that must be the DNA of my leadership. The equation is: Humility + Conviction + Courage = Godly Leadership.
Jesus demonstrates for us what real leadership looks like. When he knew all power and authority was given to him, he did not make demands. He laid aside his outer garment, took up the towel, and washed the feet of the disciples (John 13:1-5). Leading with humility recognizes our position comes from God. It is His call upon our lives, not our giftedness or prowess. Humble leaders realize we need other gifted people around us, we confess mistakes, and we take responsibility when things do not go as planned, while giving the credit to others when it does. Leading with humility means not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought, and looking to the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-8).
Jesus models leadership by conviction. He was never led off of his mission by the desires of everyone around him. As crowds would demand his presence, he would head to the next town (Mark 1:35-39). Leading with conviction begins by seeking the will of the Lord in a situation. It seeks the will of the Lord regarding the vision and direction of the church. Leading with conviction requires the leader to do business with God so that the strongest voices in the people do not set the direction. A leader that lets conviction drive decisions is less likely to be tossed back and forth by praise or critical opinions. Following either of those can take you away from where God wants you to lead.
As you lead with humility and conviction, it is necessary to lead with courage. Jesus modeled courage. Courage is required for making hard decisions, saying the unpopular thing, confronting people undermining a gospel culture, and dealing with conflict. We cannot be effective for the Kingdom without the unction to lead with courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is realizing some things are more important than our fears.
But, what happens if an element is missing? Can we still effectively lead with two of the three? Not really.
Humility + Conviction – Courage = Passive Leadership
If we lead with humility and conviction, but we lack courage, we will provide passive leadership. We will know where we should lead the church and direct the team, but our lack of courage will make us sit passively by, hoping we can arrive at the desired destination without ruffling any feathers. We will settle for slowly arriving to the destination or live in frustration because we let other people’s agenda take us away from it.
Humility + Courage – Conviction = Inconsistent Leadership
If we lead with humility and courage, minus conviction, we will provide inconsistent leadership. We will not be arrogant or overbearing, and we will not have a problem standing up to fight for a decision, but we will not be consistent because conviction is not underneath our decision making. Lack of conviction will lead to adopting ideas that worked somewhere else or sounded great in a meeting, but we will not know if this is something we should pursue. A leader who leads minus strong conviction will be content to throw ideas against the wall to see if any stick. If conviction is absent, we will lead people in circles because we are not sure what the destination actually is.
Conviction + Courage – Humility = Prideful Leadership
This is likely the most plain to see. When humility is lacking in our leadership, we will be prideful. We will need to be right, get the credit, and have it our way. A lack of humility in our leadership will cause leaders to be overbearing and run over others to get their way. Prideful leaders tend to be very lonely because while people may labor beside them because of their belief in the mission, they will never truly labor with them because of their ego.
A Call to Lead
Pastors and ministry friends, we have the greatest privilege in the world to labor in the church of our Lord. Jesus is unrivaled in glory and he invites us to participate in his world changing mission. The leadership we bring to the local church matters a great deal. We must take it serious and lead with diligence. Join me in casting aside people-pleasing tendencies, and strive to lead with humility, conviction, and courage.