Gleaning insights from popular leadership books and then applying them in the worlds of church and missions is no novel idea. Books on leadership stack up higher and higher every year, though, and keeping up with it all can be a real challenge. Luckily, four big principles tend to show up consistently throughout these expert tomes on leadership, and I think all four of them are directly applicable as you seek to lead well in your church’s missional efforts.
1) Leaders Nurture Relationships
In their wildly popular book, The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner talk a lot about how crucial human relationships are. They explain that good leaders “invest in creating trustworthy relationships. They build spirited and cohesive teams, teams that feel like family.” These two leadership gurus have maintained for a long time that “success in leading is wholly dependent on the capacity to build and sustain those relationships.”
Along the same line, Joseph Hellerman points out in his chapter of Biblical Leadership that, as he led his missionary team, the apostle Paul had rich relationships with his people. “Paul’s missionary enterprise,” Hellerman explains, “was a communal project. . . . Paul enjoyed deep, affective relationships with the members of his missionary team.”
In a handy little book titled Close: Leading Well across Distance and Cultures, Ken Cochrum shares this insight: “Leadership is fundamentally a relationship that must exhibit genuine care and concern for those being led.”
Keep nurturing real relationships with the people laboring alongside you.
As you lead the charge in developing the missional culture and programming in your local church, it’s important that you keep nurturing real relationships with the people laboring alongside you.
2) Leaders Foster Diversity
Henry and Richard Blackaby argue in Spiritual Leadership that strong teams include people with widely varying perspectives. They caution that “Leaders are unwise to merely take on people who see and do things the same way they do. To thrive in a complex and diverse world, teams must have a wide spectrum of perspectives and skills at their disposal.”
In Brave New Work, Aaron Dignan provides hard data from the business world that shows diversity to be a key component in a team’s success. He cites a recent study demonstrating that “companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity were 15 percent and 35 percent more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile, respectively.” Whether we’re talking about gender diversity, ethnic diversity, or just a diversity in the perspectives and skills team members bring to the table, what’s clear is that fostering diversity has proven advantages.
Ian Parkinson echoes this principle in Understanding Christian Leadership: “The wise leader will steadfastly resist the temptation to form or cajole teams towards sterile uniformity, whether in terms of personality or opinion, and will actively look to create diversity in the make-up of teams.” He observes that “effective teams are always composed of people who reflect difference in terms of skills and abilities, experience and perspectives.”
As a missions leader in your church, you can work to foster a diversity of skills and perspectives among those who are engaged in the shared task of advancing the gospel.
3) Leaders Delegate Well
In another chapter of Biblical Leadership, Jennifer and Benjamin Noonan insist that leaders should delegate tasks to others because it allows those people to execute their own divine callings. “Not allowing others to exercise their spiritual gifts by doing their job for them,” the Noonans say, is a leadership fail.
Bernice Ledbetter, Robert Banks, and David Greenhalgh argue in their book, Reviewing Leadership, that another reason leaders must delegate is to “enhance the power of all involved.” That is, leaders who delegate drive others to be their best.
As you lead your church in God’s global mission, remember to delegate so others can execute their callings and exercise their giftings. If the leadership books are right, then you’ll see them doing the work better and better as time goes on.
As you lead your church in God’s global mission, remember to delegate so others can execute their callings and exercise their giftings.
4) Leaders Develop Leaders
Leadership titan John Kotter writes in his seminal work, Leading Change, that “highly controlling organizations often destroy leadership by not allowing people to blossom, test themselves, and grow.” He goes on to say prophetically that “Successful organizations in the twenty-first century will have to become more like incubators of leadership.”
As a missions leader in your local body, there will always be opportunities for you to raise up others.
In his book Leading Cross-Culturally, Sherwood Lingenfelter says it’s important “to support [leaders in training] in the early stages when they need help.” He goes on to emphasize, though, that it’s equally crucial for leaders to “release control” to their budding new leaders when the time is right.
As a missions leader in your local body, there will always be opportunities for you to raise up others, not only to participate in the work, but also to help shoulder the leadership of your church’s missional endeavors along with you.
May these four leadership principles serve as reminders and encouragements as you lead your church in God’s global mission. Nurture relationships, foster diversity, delegate well, and, perhaps most importantly, develop other leaders to serve alongside you.
LET’S HEAR FROM YOU!
What did you learn about leadership from this post?
Do you have any favorite leadership resources?
Kyle Brosseau is a missionary with the International Mission Board in Prague, Czech Republic. He holds a DMin in Missions from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is working on his PhD in World Religions from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jkylebrosseau.