On Saturday, September 25 our church held its annual leadership summit. As always, it was a delightful time with much work done toward building on the future. Preparing for the event led me to look through my library to think about what I might recommend to our wonderful lay leaders. Doing so led me to the startling conclusion that I have way too many books on leadership and leaders! If I never read another book on leadership, I probably would have still more than my quota met.
I sat and tried to distill everything I believe about leadership and I have come to the decision it boils down to three essential traits.
1) A leader must lead out of his or her own convictions. Focus groups, polls, and discussion sessions may help a leader pathfind out of a difficult place or into a better one, but these tools cannot make a leader succeed. Only leading from the gut can lead to any kind of success.
2) Trial and error is the trademark of great leaders. A leader who is afraid to fail is a leader who will never quite make the jump to true success. The caveat to this is that a leader must learn from the failure. If learning does not lead to learning, then the whole failure was in vain.
3) A true leader cannot be afraid to make enemies. The painful part of leadership in the church is that sometime these enemies will attack on personal grounds and seek to undermine your leadership, authority, or even your livelihood. Sometimes these enemies are even “friends.” But the truth remains that if a man or woman is truly leading, enemies will be made.
Leadership is hard. It is hard on the nerves and hard on the heart. No one has ever claimed leadership was easy. I thought of this as I was watching President Obama on the news this past week. Regardless of politics, he looks like he has aged 10 years in the 19 months since he took office. I noticed the same thing happened to Presidents Bush and Clinton. Now, that is on a bigger scale some would say. I argue, however, that in church the leadership turmoil is greater—because the work of the church is far more important than politics.