5 Essentials Every Influential Leader Needs to Develop

Courtesy of lightstock.com

Courtesy of lightstock.com

If you’ve ever heard me with a microphone, you know one of my core beliefs is that everyone has leadership potential in them. The stay-at-home mom, the teacher, retiree, manager, pastor…whoever you are and whatever role you play, there is leadership potential in you.

Do you know what the greatest problem with leadership is? @@We are wired with desire to be the leader but not the discipline to actually lead.@@ Leadership is a mosaic of disciplines. Very few of us are born with God-given leadership gifts that need no development. 

If I were to boil leadership down to the essentials, this would be my list.

1. Character

I believe your capabilities make you a leader, but your character keeps you a leader. Your gifts and abilities get you noticed, but it’s when we faithfully display character that we gain the influence to lead. 

Abraham Lincoln said, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” You can’t always control who people think you are, but you do have the power to be true to who you say you are. 

Proverbs 28:6 – Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

2. Humility

John Maxwell, the Godfather of Leadership, gave an unforgettable talk at the Global Leadership Summit in 2016. He said, "Intentionally, everyday, add value to people.” A leader sees themselves as servant. I want to make sure you read that correctly: when you step on the stage, walk into a room or sit behind your desk, you ought to see yourself as a servant, ready to add value to the lives of those you lead.

  • Give all the credit away to others
  • Deflect attention away from yourself
  • Actively serve those you lead

Jesus redefined leadership from status to service. From get out to give out. From renown to ransom.

Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.

3. Belief

You must be the leader in belief. What are you believing for? If you don’t believe it deep down - you know, way down in your gut - why would anyone else believe it?

You don’t need to have the plan as the leader. You can bring others around you for that - you must hold a disproportionate amount of belief. You know that thing we talk about all the time…vision? Here is what a true vision is: It’s not a plan you dreamed up. It’s not a dream you have planned out. It's a dream you are planning for.

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

4. Candor

No one tells us this as Pastors, but one of the reasons we sign up for this gig is because we are people pleasers. And there is a lot of good in this: we want to help people, serve people and add value to people. The other side of this is that we hate to hurt people and their feelings. And so, we lack candor.

I was in a room with a small group of pastors listening to renowned author and psychiatrist Henry Cloud recently. He reminded us quite exuberantly: “You guys are good on grace! What you lack is the hard truth.” What he was communicating was that as he travels the country, meeting with thousands of pastors, he finds that we see shepherding only as gently massaging “the flock" and never whacking with the crook. 

We do this with the people on our staff and in our church - and this avoidance of candor is a tactic of self-preservation. And can I just admit I struggle with this, perhaps, more than anyone? Here’s what I’ve become convinced of: The most consistent invitation into servant leadership is candor.

Ephesians 4:15 - Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

5. Resolve

In an era where we celebrate the “Launch” or the “Ship Date” of an idea or a product (things I love), we rarely celebrate resolve. But behind every great product, idea or vision is a leader with resolve.

I’ve become addicted to the NPR podcast “How I Built This”. It’s about products and companies we know and love and how they came to be what they are today. There isn’t a single episode where the leader didn’t experience vast and prolonged pain. And yet, without podcasts like this, we would never hear these chapters in their stories.

For a lot of us, in our leadership, we just need to keep showing up. We need to make faithfulness sexy again! Nothing of importance was ever produced without pain. And in seasons when our leadership bears much fruit, we can’t let off the gas. A leader shows up day after day.

Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

How are you living out these essentials in your leadership? What would you add to this list?