There have been numerous books written on leadership. I’d venture to say that it’s one of the most common book topics written about, at least in the last half century. And yet, there isn’t a common definition of what leadership is, or what makes for a good leader. In fact, I’ve read books that have contradicted other books on what makes for a good leader.
Maybe part of this is because the very idea of leadership is diverse. You need to take into account what/who you are leading, what the goal/objective is, the culture of the organization you are leading, formal/informal leadership, leadership and power vs. authority, resources, and more. No wonder there is no common definition of what leadership is or what makes for an effective leader.
And the same is true in church. What is effective leadership in the church? It depends on so many things. I think the context really matters. If you wanted a general definition of what effective leadership is across the church, you could give the “churchy” answer – to be as much like Jesus as possible. Or maybe it’s to be Christ-like while helping others to be Christ-like too. But even that definition doesn’t really do justice to the idea of leadership in church.
Here’s what I think is effective leadership in the church – Making people uncomfortable enough so that they will grow into their calling and vocation, to be more fully who they were created to be, all while walking with them in relationship.
Leadership is about moving people forward. But it’s also recognizing that is going to be uncomfortable. But anything worthwhile is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable by nature.
When I train for a distance race, my muscles hurt. I’m uncomfortable. And that soreness is my body’s way of telling me that I’m working my muscles.
Discipleship is uncomfortable. This isn’t a shocker – Jesus told us it would be really uncomfortable. He calls on those who will follow him to pick up their cross and follow him. That’s the height of discomfort.
Leaders make the privilege of comfort uncomfortable enough for people to act. They get people moving. Some will walk away. So be it. They value their comfort more than discipleship. That’s truly sad. But keeping everyone on board by accommodating the most resistant is not part of the calling of leaders. Even Jesus let followers walk away several times in the Gospel accounts.
That’s what leaders do – they do the hard work of moving the mission forward, with the folks who are willing to be uncomfortable because the mission is more important than their comfort.