Christian teaching about qualities of good leaders

Reverend Martin Adhikary

5 June, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Christian teaching about qualities of good leaders

The world always needs good leaders, who are trustworthy and people of integrity. We need them at all places, organisations and institutions: in families, state, society, community and organisations of any kind, whether in religion, politics, economics, education and so on. But there are a few such leaders who are really good. Due to lack of ideal leader, people suffer, get disillusioned and frustrated. Ideally, what is leadership? Or what a good leaders needs to do for the people who are under his/ her leadership? These are the very pertinent questions needing to clarify first of all.

 A leader is a person with a clear vision leading people for the purpose of realising the goal or objective of the organisation that is under his/ her leadership. This requires for the leader to lead the members of the organisation following the mission, vision of the same and also by following certain values and or principles. A leader is one who gets all these achieved or achieved by the members of the organisation. Many people have articulated many definitions of ‘leadership’. One very good definition is ‘leadership is influence’. That is meant to say that the leader, by his good leadership qualities influences the members in such a way that good results are achieved by the organisation or entity that is being led. Internationally known as a leadership expert Rev Dr John C Maxwell says, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flow-charts. It is about one life influencing another.” Further he says, “Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” Many people in our world think of position, honour and controlling lives of others when they think of leadership. But according to Biblical or Christian understanding, leadership is entirely different. They think leaders are bosses with power and authority to drive or control people. In such a case, leaders drive people more than they lead. According to Christian teaching, leadership is a noble thing. ‘To aspire to leadership is an honourable ambition”, said Apostle Paul in his Epistle to Timothy, a disciple of him in 1 Timothy 3:1 where he lists different virtues for a Church leader. Ideal Christian leadership has a spiritual notion of necessity. Christian leadership is servant-hood leadership, leadership by or through service to people in humility. This is very different from what we normally see in our world. Servant leadership is such that it seems to many in our world something strange! But Jesus’ style of leadership was this way. He exhorted his followers thus: “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant (Matthew 20:25-26). The Gospel of John records a spectacular event when Jesus washed the dusty feet of his disciples with water and thereby he set an example of humble service before them. He said to them that that was an example for them to follow would they wish to be leaders. They were to have love for one another and out of love would flow humble service (John 13). In Matthew’s gospel, we read Jesus continuing his teaching thus, “and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus himself) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. Jesus came to serve man even to the point of sacrificing his sinless life for the salvation of Man. Jesus is the supreme example of sacrificial service for the eternal good of Man.

In the Holy Bible we find many illustrations of good and authentic leadership. There are also many teachings on this very important subject. We learn about sterling qualities of true and noble leadership from many Biblical characters. The lives of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Nehemiah and the prophets for the good of the people. In the New Testament we have the lives of the apostles of Christ Jesus and then all the Church Fathers, leaders and missionaries in subsequent centuries. Thousands of books on leadership have been written by scholars on the theme of Christian leadership throughout ages in different languages. This piece is merely a modest essay to introduce the idea.

The Wisdom book of Proverbs has a great deal of teaching on this. We can outline some of them as delineated below: A good leader seeks God’s direction. He has the attitude of servant leadership. Aware of his noble vocation of leading people for a good purpose the leaders needs to listen to and discern what God wants, not what himself wants to do. Proverbs 16:3 exhorts, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed”, and “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (verse 9). Proud and boastful ones cannot serve people in the truest sense of the term. God detests all the proud of heart. It is said, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19). How vividly these words of wisdom teach that a true leader is a leader, who has compassion and option for the poor and the oppressed people. Because a real leader has genuine love for his people, he is also easily accessible, approachable by all and as such he is also accountable for his commitment. One true leader is essentially a peace-maker. He puts the interests of the people above his private interests. In order for that one needs to be fair and just too. “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Better to have a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice” (verses 7-8).

(To be continued)


The writer is a Christian

Theology teacher