What is "leadership"?

What is “Leadership”?

Some may define it by pointing to examples -- particular leaders they like or those they believe have been effective.  A pastor, lay person, or bishop.  Or, maybe a mayor, governor, president, or business leader.   Maybe even a quiet servant leader whose faithful example inspires countless others.   One could also point to examples of weak leadership and problems that were created when someone failed to lead when needed.  

I believe that “leadership” is primarily about one thing -- influence.  A good definition of leadership is this:   the capacity to influence people toward a positive outcome.  

See the elements?  Capacity.  Influence.  People.  Positive outcome (a result, or “fruit”).  

What do good leaders do?  They don’t do all the work themselves, but they make sure that, in pursuit of their mission, the right work does get done by someone.  I like this quick list of 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership (from James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge, Fourth Edition):

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart

Other than the terminology “Five Practices”, what does this list have to do with the church?  Every congregation has a pastor who is in a position of leadership – with both the opportunity and the need to lead.  And each congregation has several lay people in positions of leadership – lay leaders, board and committee chairs, and many others.  Do they really lead (influence people toward positive outcomes) or do they simply fill positions?  That depends.

All across our conference this fall, congregations are gathering for annual church or charge conferences where leaders for the coming year are elected.  Some people will continue in leadership positions, some will transition off, and others will be called to new leadership roles.  Regardless, each leader has a certain capacity to influence an important part of the congregation’s ministry.  And no leader is perfect, so our leaders, both lay and clergy, must work together (collaborate) to discern, plan, and accomplish the ministry that God has placed before them.  Hopefully, all will work on the “Five Practices” listed above, or something else to strengthen their leadership capacity, so that their congregation will be even more effective at the other “Five Practices” that we know so well.

My prayer is that the lay people who are called and elected to positions of leadership this fall will, through the gifts and inspiration of God’s Spirit, provide real leadership that leads to positive, measurable results in their congregations.  Let’s all work to develop our own “capacity for influence” to lead congregations and to lead people to actively follow Jesus Christ.  

THAT’S Leadership!