Essential Characteristics of a Leader

Leadership impacts all of us. One of the lessons of the Bible is that all of God’s people are to serve in one way or another as leaders. We are all to reflect to some extent the functions of prophets, priests and kings within the new people of God and before the world. Understanding Christian leadership not only makes us good followers, but it also helps us fulfill the leadership roles that God gives to each of us. So what are the necessary characteristics of the faith-minded leader? Let me suggest four of the most important qualities. While all of these are essential, I will treat them in what I perceive as a general order of increasing importance.



First, what makes a leader uniquely Christian is the worldview from which the leader functions. Faith-minded leaders operate from a coherent philosophy of life shaped by the Scriptures. The Christian leader “views” the “world” differently. It is not simply that the leader has faith in the sense of confidence or positive thinking, but rather, the gospel and the biblical narrative actually shape the contours of the leader’s vision. Faith-minded leaders know who they are and where they are going. Such a biblical perspective allows leaders to cast vision that in turn inspires others to follow. If you want to develop as a Christian leader in your areas of responsibility, then you must continue to grow and stretch in your understanding of the Scriptures.  



Second, a faith-minded leader lives according to a unique set of virtues and moral values. In Christian leadership character absolutely matters. A worldly leader, if he or she has charisma or personality or happens to be the right person at the right time, can get away with character flaws for a season. But for the faith-minded leader, Christ-like conduct and character is always essential. This is because the Christian leads under God’s authority and standards. Everything else is subordinate to this. The godly leader is not just a teacher of biblical truth, but also a model of its wise and virtuous application in the nitty-gritty of life. Such integrity instills confidence in followers. If you want to develop as a faith-minded leader in your areas of responsibility, then you must continue on the path toward Christlikeness.  



Thirdly, a Christian leader must be a self-sacrificing servant. Here is the essence of spiritual or godly leadership. The leader must lead as Christ did. Jesus led as “the Suffering Servant” who sacrificed his own life for his sheep. Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for others. This others-oriented leadership style is actually a reflection of the divine nature and must be characteristic of every godly leader. The person who wants to use leadership roles for personal benefit or from a sense of self-importance is not a Christian leader. Suffering for others produces a beauty that people want to follow and imitate. If you aspire to be a leader, then you must intentionally imitate Jesus, who laid down his life for his friends. You must do this in the everyday exercise of leadership.



But there is one more characteristic of the godly leader, and it is the foundation of all the others. Without it our efforts to cast a biblical vision, or to live a life of character and virtue, or to serve others sacrificially will fail. Here it is: the godly leader must have an unshakeable confidence in the Lord. The Christian leader trusts God every step of the way. The greatest leaders do not, at the end of the day, trust themselves – they trust the Lord. When those they lead falter and doubt, the true leader models a deep and abiding faith in the goodness, wisdom and sovereign purposes of God. Such a faith kindles a passion that then encourages others to persevere. This is leadership!

Our families, our churches, our places of work, and our communities desperately need genuine faith-minded leadership. May the Lord help each of us to cultivate the kind of leadership that fully trusts God, that imitates Christ’s self-sacrificing service, that leads with character and virtue, and that casts vision from the rich wisdom of God’s Word.


NOTE: There are many excellent books on Christian leadership. Consider, for example, the handbook edited by Dr. David Dockery entitled Christian Leadership Essentials, or Robert Clinton’s the Making of a Leader. There are also excellent conferences and seminars that focus on developing Christian leaders for all walks of life. One example is the annual “Global Leadership Summit,” which will be available through various host sites this summer in South Florida. There are college and graduate degrees in Christian leadership – a wise investment for those preparing for leadership roles whether in ministry, non-profits organizations or the business world. One option is the Master of Arts in Leadership at Trinity International University (Florida Regional Center). New national organizations, such as “Made to Flourish” are working to help Christians, and especially leaders, live out their faith in the work place.  


Daniel J. Ebert IV, PhD, is Director of Graduate Programs and Affiliate Professor of NT at Trinity International University (Kendall) he can be reached at [email protected]

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