The Most Important Quality Of Christian Leaders

There are some authors that when they write, I listen.  Henri Nouwen is one of those for me.  As a follower of Christ, I am always looking to become more effective as a christian leader.  When I come across something really good, I want to pass it on.  This is one of those times.

I’ve seen well-meaning people step into leadership positions.  Once they get there, they do only what they’ve seen done before.  They bark, puff up their chests, get their tail feathers nice and big, and confidently proclaim that the boss is in town.

Of course, you or I would never admit we do this.  That would be “un-christian.”  As I’ve been evaluating my leadership and how I work with people, though, I must confess this is me at times.

I end up telling people as opposed to bringing people.

What I mean by that is that I give orders…err…I give strong opinions.  This is different that working with people in such a way that when a decision is made, they can whole-heartedly follow, because their opinion was heard and helped shaped the ultimate decision.

This takes humility on the part of the leader, and the commitment to spend the time necessary to bring people; not just tell people.

As christian leaders, we ought to look different than what’s common in the marketplace.  We are salt.  We are light.  Let’s act like it.  As we mature in our relationship with Christ, our leadership should mature as well.  Nouwen alludes to this in his reflections on Christian leadership. He writes:

Here we touch upon the most important quality of Christian leadership in the future.  It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest…I am speaking of a leadership in which power is constantly abandoned in favor of love.

It is true spiritual leadership.

Powerlessness and humility in the spiritual life do not refer to people who have no spine and who let everyone else make decisions for them.  They refer to people who are so deeply in love with Jesus that they are ready to follow him wherever he guides them, always trusting that, with him, they will find life and find it abundantly.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, In The Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

What if we, as christian leaders, were regarded as men and women who were defined by our humility?  What if people who followed us didn’t sense a hunger for power, but a hunger for God.

If this were the case, I imagine people would be all the more inclined to want to follow our lead, and God would be glorified through it all.

This world needs spiritual leaders.  We need men and women who are willing to lay down their own interests, their own deep desires, and to follow God wherever He might lead us.

Some of us sang about it as kids.  “Follow Jesus I will follow Jesus, everywhere He leads me I will follow….”

Have you seen a leader around you that reminds you of what Henri Nouwen describes above?

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  1. Anonymous February 15, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Great Article Kevin. We are salt. We are light. Let’s act like it. As we mature in our relationship with Christ, our leadership should mature as well. Come to think of it, Jesus spoke simply and from the heart, told stories and multiplied the effectiveness of his words, didn’t he? And we want to be effective leaders, good managers, and sharpened tools in his hands.

    • Kevin East February 15, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      He sure did. His authenticity drew people in. There is much to be learned by that alone. There is something about being humble and authentic that pushes the focus off us as leaders and into its rightful place.

  2. Dave Anderson February 15, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    Being the Chairman of the Elder Board was maturing time of leadership for me. The thing I had to realize was that God was going to accomplish His will. I was not the Linchpin that was going to make it all happen. I did not have be the driver to get things done. The Lord is in control. I need to be His instrument in leadership not his surrogate leader.

    • Kevin East February 15, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      Dave, your example as Chairman was quite impressive. You’ve allowed people like me to see a strength in power that is foreign to most. I’m excited to see your website up and going. It will be a really good resource to people as they learn to lead out of who they are.

  3. Stanley J Ward February 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    In what books does Nouwen say this? I’d love to read more.

    • Kevin East February 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      I fixed some spacing issues on the quote above, so that the book title is more obvious, but this quote comes from his book, In The Name Of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.

  4. Quenne February 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    I enjoyed reading that post and would like to apply the principles to my life about leadership.