What does it take to be a remarkable leader? The Bible provides many examples of both strong and weak leaders.
Characteristics of remarkable Biblical leaders capable of meeting the needs of the people include loyalty, courage, desire, emotional stability, empathy, decisiveness, risk-takers, a sense of timing, competitiveness, confidence, accountability, trustworthiness, and a servant’s heart.
Loyalty between master and servant, and between servant and master is a reciprocal relationship common among strong leaders.
Elisha was loyal to Elijah to the extent that even though Elijah encouraged Elisha not to follow him, Elisha refused (2 Kings 2:1-12). On three separate occasions, Elisha restated his desire to stay with his master until the very end. His reward for this loyalty was to inherit Elijah’s powers and responsibilities.
Leaders must have courage. The job of leadership is often a lonely one, confronted with obstacles and adversity. A good leader must have the courage to bear up under these difficulties.
One of the most powerful pictures of courage in the Bible is the young boy David who steps onto the battlefield to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17). David was a shepherd whose only weapon was a sling. He faced Goliath, a giant over nine feet tall, who was a professional soldier.
Strong leaders have a desire to lead that is inescapable. They would rather lead others, affect the outcomes of events, and change processes than anything else.
Consider the example of Paul, who by his own account was shipwrecked, flogged, and thrown into prison for years. Paul endured this because of his intense desire to see the job he was commissioned to do completed.
Ever increasing levels of responsibility bring more and more stress. Good leaders have the ability to maintain composure in the face of adversity. They can recover quickly from the disappointment of failure with their perspectives clearly in focus. This kind of emotional stability and resilience are marks of a strong leader.
Job provides a wonderful example of a man, who in the face of adversity, maintained his emotional stability through his faith in God.
Leaders must be able to appreciate the differences between people’s values and other cultures. Empathy brings about a unique understanding that is required to be able to meet people’s needs.
Jesus is the greatest example of a man who understood and valued the differences between people. In the selection of the apostles he chose a wide variety of people; a Pharisee, a tax collector, Jews, Greeks, young, old, well-educated, and those with no education. He chose them all with a complete understanding of how they would work to complete the missions assigned to them.
Leaders must be able to make decisions. Wishy-washy procrastinators confuse and discourage subordinates.
Jesus never had any trouble making decisions. When He encountered the moneychangers at the temple, He immediately overthrew their tables saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” (Mat 21:13).
Leaders are willing to step out and take risks when others retreat to the comfort of stable security.
Paul’s life during his three missionary journeys, conducted over a twelve-year period, are a testimony to a man willing to take risks. He willingly placed himself in circumstances of great risk to fulfill his commission to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13-28).
A Sense of Timing
A leader must develop a sense of timing. The ability to know how and when to make a decision, when to make announcements, when to make changes, etcetera.
Jesus provides many examples of a perfect sense of timing. He always knew the right word or the right lesson, and the perfect time to deliver them.
Leaders have an intense desire to win. Second place is not good enough. Although no one wins all the time, strong leaders know which races are the most important to win.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor 9:24). Paul encourages the Corinthians to understand which races are important and not settle for second best.
Strong leaders exude confidence. Despite personal doubts, they appear confident of their ability to succeed at all times, and this confidence carries over to subordinates.
Moses provides an example of outward confidence and inner doubt as he said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
Leaders understand the need to praise others for their work and take responsibility for failure. Strong leaders not only give credit where credit is due but take responsibility for the failures of their subordinates.
Remember the parable of the talents that Jesus taught the disciples (Matthew 25)? The master gave three servants five, two, and one talent of money to invest on his behalf while he was away. When the master returned, he rewarded the men who invested well. The master held the man who did not invest well accountable for his actions.
A leader has the trust of friend and foe alike. His word is his bond. His yes means yes and his no means no.
Jesus provides an important lesson about trust saying, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).
Above all else, a leader knows that it is his or her job to serve. There is no need for a shepherd if there is no flock.
Certainly, no one can be seen as more of a master and a servant in the Bible than Jesus himself. Among the dozens of examples of how He cared for His flock is a simple but dramatic example of when He abruptly stopped eating dinner to wash the disciples’ feet. He did this to provide an example of how He wanted them to serve and care for others (John 13).
One Final Thought
In his book, Leadership Is an Art, author Max Dupree notes, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”
If we are not the quintessential leader that we might hope to be, we can study great leaders, understand their strengths, and try to emulate them. Eventually, with experience and dedication, you can develop the leadership skills you desire!
This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled, “13 Traits of Remarkable Leaders You Should Have.”
This whitepaper includes an expanded discussion of each of the 13 Biblical leadership traits and three lessons about leaders from the life and experiences of Ezekiel.
You can download the whitepaper here: “13 Traits of Remarkable Leaders You Should Have.”
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Category: Skills | Leadership Development