5 Characteristics of Effective Christian Leaders

5 Characteristics of Effective Christian Leadership Transforming Mission

How are you doing today? As you hold the mission of the church before your congregation, how are you leading, this week, through this pandemic, differing political views, and understanding racism?

Although you might not think you are, you are leading with distinction.  No one has ever had to navigate such uncertainty in our lifetime, and you are doing it every day.

Recent research conducted by Harvard University found that when leaders focus on building relationships, they create conditions that lead to higher levels of commitment as well as increased accountability, hope, and satisfaction.

Giving Of Yourself

Albert Einstein wrote, “From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other, above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” 

Einstein’s quote sums up the nature of leadership today. Your leadership is not defined by what position you hold or what you might achieve, but by what you give of yourself to help others evolve and grow.

Do You Have These Skills?

As a follower of Jesus, you are being faithful in your leadership as you work for the good of the people entrusted to your care. You are being an impactful leader as you help the people around you become more who God has created them to be. You are changing the world as you lead with love and grace and assist others to do the same. 

Effective Leaders have made a shift from “administering” procedures to ministering to people. They are skilled at building and maintaining relationships. They are:   

1. Self-aware

Self-awareness is not only knowing your strengths and weaknesses but is also knowing the impact that your behavior has on others. For example, let’s say you enjoy hands-on involvement with people entrusted to your care. To be self-aware means you would also realize that your hands-on style might frustrate people who have been given responsibility for certain areas of ministry.  Your behavior creates the appearance that you don’t trust or appreciate them or value their work. By considering your actions, you can adjust how you relate to the people around you. 

So if you are going to be an effective leader, you will need to take a step back to consider the realities and challenges of the people around you and focus upon their strengths and skills as you understand and improve your own. That is why self-awareness and understanding are essential in building healthy relationships. 

2. Willing to delegate important tasks and decision making

Delegating helps to build experience and confidence in others. It also forces you to give honest, consistent feedback and to motivate and reward people for their work. With that in mind, it is important to know the strengths of the people with whom you are working. 

Effective leadership is not about overcoming weaknesses but is building upon the strengths of the people with whom you are working. True delegation is centered in knowing what strengthens the whole. This is where building relationships is important. You discover what excites people and you give them responsibility where they can and will fully invest themselves. It is in and through your relationships that you connect people to what truly makes a difference in the world. 

3. Good interpersonal skills

Effective leaders are able to negotiate and handle problems without alienating others. This requires understanding others’ perspectives and needs. You are able to develop a rapport with all kinds of people.  

Have you ever known a school principal who is equally comfortable with students, parents, teaching staff, and school board? If so, you have seen interpersonal skills at their best. Here is where healthy relationships help you grow and mature as a leader.  As you interact with each individual and group, you are sharpening your skills as a leader. 

4. Collaborative in style

Effective leaders use listening skills and communication to involve others, build consensus, and influence decisions. It is easy to focus upon what you want to accomplish or what matters most to you. It is easy to fall into “I can do this better myself.” This often leads to using people as a means to an end rather than helping them become who God created them to be. 

This is where healthy relationships help you understand what people hope to accomplish and what makes them feel as if they are truly making a difference. This is where you help people connect with the mission and invest themselves in it. On the surface, being an autocratic leader seems to bring greater results. But over time, the leader who values relationships and is collaborative builds support and can accomplish more. 

5. Effective at receiving and giving feedback

Effective feedback is one of the best ways leaders can improve their relationship skills. Feedback lets people know how they’re doing, reinforces goals, and encourages engagement. When giving feedback, remember to be clear is to be kind. Make sure to focus on a single message, be specific, and sensitive. Judge the behavior, not the person.

When receiving feedback, remember to risk vulnerability. An effective leader will not only receive the feedback but will engage the people around her/him to incorporate appropriate changes. Being good at relationships isn’t a personality trait. It does not depend upon whether you are an extrovert, outgoing and good at conversation. A good leader listens and is open to becoming who God has created him/her to be. Even introverts can do that.   

Adapt and Evolve

We are living in a divisive world. Whether it is differing political views, theological debates, or just the way people were raised, our world is divided like no other time in recent history. Your effectiveness is no longer dependent upon whether you are relevant, use technology, or meet in the sanctuary. Your effectiveness is in your ability to adapt, evolve, and function in today’s complex and interconnected environment. 

Your Next Step

So, let me ask you to take a few minutes to reflect upon the questions below. This is for you and for your growth. After you have completed the questions, consider meeting with one or two trusted friends to discuss your answers.  Again, this is for you and for your becoming the leader God has created you to be. 

Think about one or two significant relationships in your life.

Get a face in your mind and a name on your lips.

  • How do these relationships inform and/or shape your life?
  • What role does self-awareness play?
  • How do you listen and communicate within these relationships?
  • What do you feel when people offer feedback?
  • Now, think of one person with whom you work/associate but have no relationship.
    • Get a face in your mind and a name on your lips.
  • How does this relationship inform and/or shape your life?
  • What role does self-awareness play?
  • How do you listen and communicate within this relationship?
  • What do you feel when this person offers feedback? 

Your Turn

Now, think of the people entrusted to your care. What is one thing you can and will do to become a more effective leader? 

There is no doubt about it, our churches and communities need effective leaders.  Leader who can develop, cultivate, nourish, and adapt the relationships needed to navigate the chaos and confusion of today and lead into a new future. 

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in becoming the leader God has created you to be.

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