There is a vast difference between the leadership paradigm of the world and leadership in God’s kingdom. Whether this leadership takes place in the home, the church, the workplace, or otherwise, God’s people are to lead with servanthood and humility. We are to walk in the authority God has given us, but we are to use this authority for the sake of God’s glory and the benefit of others.
More than leadership principles, theories, and models, healthy leadership comes from the interior life of an individual. This is so important to understand and live by. Heart, character, motivations, mindsets, and internal convictions all influence the way that we lead.
If our interior life is not healthy, we cannot possibly lead in a healthy way. This is why God often works inside of us before He works outside of us.
Below are three foundations for effective and healthy leadership in God’s kingdom. If these are not in place, any other leadership principles that we try to implement will be built on a faulty foundation.
True leadership flows out of our relationship with God. If we do not keep intimacy with the Lord as our highest aim, we can easily get off track. Jesus modeled this for us perfectly. In the midst of intense ministry demands, He always took the time to get away and be alone with the Father.
“However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)
Leadership places many demands upon us, but we must not succumb to the temptation to neglect our personal walk with God. All genuine fruitfulness in God’s kingdom comes from intimacy with the Lord. The most dangerous thing a leader can do is neglect their personal relationship with God!
Secondly, we must be secure in our identity. In a general sense, we must know who we are in Christ, be rooted in God’s love as a son or daughter, and find our security in Him. We must not allow our ministry or leadership assignment to become the foundation of our identity, or we will lead from a place of insecurity.
We must also gain internal clarity about the specifics of our identity. Your unique personality, gifts, calling, testimony, and experiences will all come into play in how you lead. John the Baptist knew exactly who he was and who he wasn’t (see John 1:19-28). If we do not know who we are, we will spend our lives trying to be everybody else. We must lead out of who we are!
Psalm 78:72 says this about the leadership of King David: “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” Notice both internal and external factors in leadership. Integrity of heart is the internal reality, and skillfulness of hands is the external ability to lead. But integrity of heart must come first.
To have integrity means to be a “whole” person. It means that who you are in public is who you are in secret. It means that you do not have hidden sin or impure motives. It means that you have character and walk in holiness of heart, action, and speech. Here is an integrity check for me as a pastor: Who I am in secret is more important than who I am in the pulpit. How my wife and kids see me is more significant than how I am perceived from the platform.
Leaders, who we are is more important than what we do! We must prioritize our relationship with God above all else. We must be rooted in a healthy identity in Christ. We must cultivate an interior life of holiness and integrity. Without these foundations, we will not be able to sustain healthy leadership over the long haul!