Leadership is for everyone! How can I make such a bold claim? Because every person who accepts Christ is called to influence others. Everyone. Leadership is not just for a select few.
God is the Ultimate Leader, and he calls every believer to lead others. God could have arranged his creation any number of ways. He chose to create human beings who possess spirits and the capacity to relate to him and follow him, yet who are not forced to do so. When mankind fell into sin, God could have easily executed a plan of redemption that did not include sinful people in the process. But he has called us to participate and to lead others as we follow him. He makes that clear from the beginning: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule” (Genesis 1:26).
The call to leadership is a consistent pattern in the Bible. When God decided to raise up a nation of his own, he didn’t call upon the masses. He called out one leader—Abraham. When he wanted to deliver his people out of Egypt, he didn’t guide them as a group. He raised up a leader to do it—Moses. When it came time for the people to cross into the Promised Land, they followed one man—Joshua. Every time God desires to do something great, he calls a leader to step forward. Today he still calls leaders to step forward for every great work.
Years ago in his book Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders gave the best definition of leadership I’ve ever read. He simply stated, “Leadership is influence.” I have embraced that definition and taught it to thousands and thousands over the years. If you are a follower of Christ, then you recognize that you are called to influence others. Jesus said it this way: “You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13–16). It doesn’t matter what your role in life; if you call yourself a Christian, then you are called to influence others.
The True Nature of Leadership
Somewhere along the way, countless Christians became convinced that if they were going to follow Christ, they must become sheepish, quiet, and withdrawn. The problem is that they have confused meekness with weakness. As Christians we recognize our own weaknesses, but that is when God’s strength is perfected in us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). What God desires is that we display a broken boldness.
A follower of God should be a leader of people. That’s more than just being “boss” or having a leadership position. And it certainly doesn’t mean being pushy or in control. Jesus taught that it means serving others (see Matthew 20:25–28). While there is a gift of leadership (according to Romans 12:8), you need not possess that gift to exert your influence in a Christlike way.
The problem is that, if you are like most people, you may not wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “Now, there’s a godly, effective leader if I ever saw one.” Most people don’t believe they can make a positive impact on the world they live in. Even most pastors feel this way. The Barna Research Group reported that 95 percent of American pastors said they don’t believe they have the spiritual gift of leadership.1 Nor do they feel they have been adequately prepared for the task of leadership.
The truth is that few people are naturals when it comes to leading others. But everyone has potential. I believe you can become a better leader, regardless of your age, gender, marital status, or profession. Sociologists say that even introverted people will influence an average of 10,000 people in their lifetime. Just think about that! Someone who’s not even trying to lead others will impact many. Just think about what one person can do if he or she is intentional about leading—as Jesus directed us to be. What kind of impact potential has God put inside of you?
The Best Means for a Lasting Legacy
Becoming a good leader may not guarantee that you will be able to leave a spiritual legacy for future generations, but it certainly provides you the greatest opportunity to do so. The Law of Legacy states, “True success is measured by succession.” A legacy that does not include people has no eternal value. Make it your aim to practice transformational leadership, where people’s lives are changed from the inside out. That kind of leadership is based on character, conviction, and Christlikeness. In other words, transformational leadership follows the pattern laid down in Scripture.
My prayer is that you will be transformed by spending time with the men and women God has used as leaders to change the world for millennia—the men and women in the Bible. No matter how strong or weak your leadership is—whether you are a “4” or a “9” on the leadership scale—you can improve and reach your leadership potential for the glory of God.
By Dr. John C. Maxwell
Article drawn from content in The Maxwell Leadership Bible.