Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, gift sets and abilities, but there are definitely some underlying principles that make some of these leaders great. The following are the principles, characteristics and values that I believe make leaders great and therefore are things that I myself strive to embody.
First and foremost, every great leader knows God. By that I mean he or she acknowledges a higher power, and in a Christian setting, has a dynamic and ongoing relationship with the Lord. In my mind, this is essential because it leads to the second principle; knowing oneself. Self-awareness is key. It keeps hubris in check, but more importantly, leads to a clear understanding of calling. All Christians are called to mission and, therefore, to a form of leadership. Knowing God leads to knowing oneself and one’s calling.
The third principle is really co-equal with the second. It is knowing others in light of knowing God. A great leader sees others (and herself) as image-bearers of God, will therefore treat others as such, and also strive for community. That way, with the Great Commission always before them, “...leaders create space for each person within their circle of influence to take the next step in maturity. They steward potent community vibrant with hope and transforming relationships. They view each individual...as one created in the image of God, one being pursued by grace for deeper relationship with the Lord, and as one through whom the mission of God can shine”.
With that foundation, every great leader then seeks to maintain certain characteristics and values; I believe the following are essential. A great leader has a teachable spirit throughout life. Not only do they seek to learn and keep an open mind, but they are willing to take constructive criticism and to change when it’s needed. Hand in hand with that, leaders practice what Tumblin calls the “discipline” of patience, and the ability to apologize quickly — even if the situation is not directly the leader’s fault. None of us are perfect: but we can always learn, and we will always need grace and a chance to grow from our mistakes. Therefore, “...(leaders) seek to embody grace upon grace as we stand against fallenness and incubate faithfulness”. Another character quality essential to being a great leader is being a team player. One can’t be a solo player if one is seeking to lead others. There needs to be a spirit of community and hospitality developed in our area of ministry as we seek to imitate and embody the love of God. “The both/and of the Gospel is to love God and neighbor”.
In daily living, a great leaders seeks to live and act in accordance with what they believe and know to be true. And last, but not least, a great leader seeks to replicate herself, while helping others identify and develop their own God-given gifts, to the praise of His glory. “All baptized Christ-followers are called to ministry. All are talented. All are given at least one gift to offer in the mission of Christ. (This is especially true since spiritual gifts are never for our own enjoyment alone. They are invested in the larger community through us.) Whether or not we are paid by the local church to do so, we all have ministry to do”.