By Dan Reiland
It’s true that no one wants to follow an insecure, indecisive, or ineffective leader.
Qualities like confident, decisive and courageous are essential and needed. Great leaders can handle the tough circumstances that come their way.
But tough-minded leaders must also be tender-hearted, or their leadership becomes cold and hard.
The strength and power of Jesus’ leadership was signified by things like a dove, a cross, and a towel. These are clearly symbols of qualities such as humility, sacrifice, love, and obedience to name just a few.
People flocked to Jesus not because of his power, but because of His compassion. He had power, but he never flaunted it.
People listened to Jesus’ teaching not because of his status but because of his wisdom. Yes, Jesus taught with authority, but it was authority under submission. Jesus only did the will of His Father.
This “softer” side of leadership demonstrates true Kingdom strength. This kind of strength is much more challenging to live out over the long run.
We are tempted to adopt “fast” power. It’s easier to declare, command and control, but that kind of strength doesn’t last. People resent it and will leave you at the first sign of difficulty or struggle in ministry.
Kingdom strength is the opposite of worldly strength. It is birthed in submission, thrives by obedience and is sustained through love.
7 Kingdom demonstrations of authentic spiritual leadership strength:
(Which ones are you good at and which one do you need to work on?)
We are called to a ministry of reconciliation. Our focus is redemption. And we are responsible to not only communicate but also demonstrate grace. Our salvation is based on grace, and therefore our leadership must follow that example.
Grace doesn’t suggest sloppy execution, low standards or avoidance of tough decisions. It means that your heart leans toward mercy, forgiveness and second chances. The disposition of your heart guides your leadership. It takes much more strength to forgive than to condemn.
Grace doesn’t dismiss the law but mediates it to embrace our humanity. Grace does the same for our leadership.
Appreciation is oil to the friction of leadership. Leadership causes motion and motion causes friction. Without something to soften the friction in ministry, it can become too much for staff and volunteers to endure.
When leaders are under pressure, the expression of appreciation is one of the first things to go out the window. That’s a big mistake. Clear expectations are important, and genuine appreciation allows you to hold fast to those important expectations.
Appreciation lifts the spirits of the volunteers and staff that you lead!
Even though Jesus was in His very nature God, He did not insist on equality with God for His own advantage. In fact, he emptied himself to serve.
It’s easy for us to get messed up according to where we land on the organization chart. Even though we know that position has almost nothing to do with our real influence, we still care about titles.
Jesus traded his title for a towel and washed people’s feet. He was the King of Kings but lived as a servant to all.
Giving up our “rights” is core to leadership strength and Kingdom based power.
One of my favorite leadership traits or skills to teach is encouragement. Probably because it’s so misunderstood. It’s often seen as the “soft” side of leadership, and sometimes even considered a waste of time.
Encouraging leaders have a giving heart, and they are anything but weak. It takes a strong, secure, and mature leader to consistently give credit to others, build people up and inspire them to greater ministry.
Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables the people you lead to hold on longer, reach farther and dig deeper than they ever believed possible.
In its purest form, the strength of love comes from selflessness. A loving leader is a selfless servant of the people.
It required incredible strength for Jesus to go to the cross and give his life for us. That strength originated in God’s love, and out of obedience, Jesus loved us beyond anything we could ever earn or deserve.
When I reflect on this kind of love, I’m challenged to examine the depth of love I have for those I serve and inspired to love even more deeply.
Love brings great strength, power, and effectiveness to your leadership.
The best leaders listen well. They don’t jump to conclusions, they ask good questions and communicate they care by seeking to understand.
Most of us would rather talk, direct and “make things happen.” But it takes patience and wisdom to know when and how to listen with genuine empathy. That requires the strength of personal discipline.
When people know you care, your influences rises.
Leaders who refuse to listen often get themselves in trouble. When leaders don’t listen, eventually people stop talking to you. The result is that you don’t know where they stand, and you can end up blindsided. The most common phrase I hear from a leader who doesn’t listen is, “I didn’t see that coming.”
Kindness is a leadership quality that allows trust, connection, and genuine exchange to take place. There is real strength in kindness.
- Kindness brings peace and joy into pressure-filled situations.
- Kindness wins the hearts of those who are far from God.
- God delights in kindness.
. . . but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24
You can see the balance. Justice, righteousness, and kindness.
It’s not complicated to be kind, but it can be difficult to practice on a consistent basis at the pace that most leaders run.
Kingdom strength for spiritual leadership doesn’t always look like strength as the world sees it. Learning to blend the two takes intentional effort and practice.