Thursday, July 15, 2004

How Do You Know A Leader?

I have a friend who was lamenting this weekend (for the umpteenth time) about the fact that they have not been put into leadership at church despite serving faithfully for years. As I listened I couldn't help but think there is no way I would put this person in a leadership position but I couldn't off the top of my head tell you why I felt that way.

I recently read a Barna report that said roughly 50% of regular church attenders perceive that they are considered leaders in their church. That is absolutely mind boggling to me... my experience says that there is only 2 or 3 real leaders per 100 attenders. Many of the people who we recognize and call leaders are not leaders. One of my favorite ice breakers is to ask a congregation how many of them consider themselves a better than average driver... invariably about 90% will raise their hand... statistically almost half of those with their hand up are wrong in their perception.

Since my perception of this 'would be' leader and their own were so far apart it made me consider what caused the disparity? They are educated, intelligent and spiritually mature. They are loyal and faithful to the church. There is nothing obvious to disqualify them from the goal they desire. But the reality is that nobody I discussed this with could perceive them as a leader.

This opens up a major point...
The only things that can be given to someone are titles, responsibilities and authority. None of these have anything to do with leadership. I believe it is John Maxwell who says you can recognize a leader by seeing if there is anyone following them. This friend of mine is a wonderful, friendly, intelligent person... but there is nobody who is following. Now, we could probably satisfy them by giving them responsiblity and a title... but is it in anybody's best interest to do that with someone who is not naturally capable of leading?

Quite honestly, the most serious issues in churches that I have been part of are people with titles, responsibilities and authority who ARE NOT LEADERS! This creates a situation where nothing can happen because the people holding the strings are incapable of persuading others or are themselves unable to change. You wind up with someone filling a position who has no vision (or talent) for making it anything more than it was when they took it.

How do you know a leader?
  • Are there people naturally following them? Do people come to them or look to them even when they DON'T have position or authority? This is a key indicator to me. When an issue is brought up in a meeting who do the bulk of the attenders look at first to read a response... that person is likely a leader.

  • Are they a person you would like to reproduce? One of my most painful lessons was when I brought in a children's pastor because he "fit the bill" and he had a "passion for the kids". The thing I didn't put as much emphasis on was whether or not they were a person I would like to reproduce. I chose instead to look past the fact that they were simply weird and not someone I would choose to spend time around if they didn't work for me. They soon flaked out on me and resigned... much to my relief... but it made me realize that you better focus on promoting people who you would like to have more like.

  • Is their home life / professional life in order? This one has to be considered with a lot of grace, but its still important to observe. A person can have such a focus and passion for Kingdom things that they are not driven to career success... that is not in itself a problem... career success is not a sign of leadership skills or spiritual maturity. It becomes a problem when they don't fulfill their requirements to provide for their family and financial obligations. I know a guy who insists God told him not to work for a living. Now, whether or not God told him to work is not my biggest issue with him... the fact that his family is suffering and he doesn't seem to notice is my issue. And as regarding leadership? NO WAY... I would never put him in a place of influence.

  • In family matters, is there constant contention in the home or is it relatively peaceful? This is difficult to discern... I've known great men of God with children from hell... and its hard to know why. Judging a person by another person's behavior is dangerous and should be avoided... but its fair to say that a home that is in disarray is likely a sign of other issues that, even if they do not disqualify them from service, will certainly limit their effectiveness.

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