Leadership is Four Things

In my experience, leadership can be defined in four ways:

  1. Influence - The ability to change the thinking, behavior, and desires of others.  Influence can be seen clearly in a leader by observing the people following the leader, are they taking their cues from the leader or not?
  2. Responsibility - The willingness to take ownership over a situation, problem, task, goal, person, or community.  Responsibility is seen as a leader simply does what needs to be done, or arranges to have it done by orchestrating and delegating to others.
  3. Confrontation - The ability to say what needs to be said in spite of how unpopular it might be.  Confrontation can be rejecting a poor proposal, pointing out improper thinking and behavior, or bringing an optimist back down to earth with some difficult facts.
  4. Vision - The ability to see things that do not yet exist.  Vision is ultimately an orientation towards the future that some people possess in more or less quantity than others.

All four of these characteristics are possessed in some measure by all people, and so it is fair to talk about leadership existing on a spectrum.  On one end are those individuals who are only capable of one or more of these character traits in fits and spurts and only when asked to do so by others, or when circumstances force it upon them.  In the middle are those individuals who can learn to exhibit these traits, and can ultimately grow into capable leaders.  On the other end are those gifted leaders who do these things in their sleep, they aren't capable of turning it off, they simply lead naturally.

Of course, we should be clear, this is not what godly leadership looks like, simply what leadership is.  Godly leadership must lead in a direction that honors God, and do so with a character, a posture, and an attitude that reflects Gods ultimate authority.  Indeed, godly leadership can perhaps be defined by reading through St. Pauls letter to the Corinthian church and the famous chapter defining love.

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