3 TRAITS OF A BIBLICAL LEADER by William Boekestein for Core Christianity

Everyone leads. Like it or not you are shaping how others think and feel, believe and behave. You might not always notice it but people are looking to you to help them answer the questions they are asking about their world. How are you leading?

Despite the lingering image of what we might perceive to be effective leadership—stern, heavy-handed, ruthlessly efficient—the Bible teaches us a better way. The best leaders are loving leaders. What will it look like for you to lead lovingly?

1. Loving Leaders Understand the Power of Love

People operate at the level of love or desire. As James K. A. Smith has articulated (borrowing from Augustine), “the center of gravity of human identity” lies in “our kardia–our gut or heart.”[1] We feel our way around life by our desires. When people have a choice, they tend to do what they love. Since love is the best motivator the best leaders are governed by love. Jesus’ true disciples follow him because they love him (John 14:15), not because they are strong-armed. Paul explains his motivation to follow Christ even beyond the apparent bounds of sanity: “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). A biblical theory of motivation can be summarized in three words: Love precedes obedience.

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You will never lead anyone into genuine, God-honoring, long-lasting, community-building, self-fulfilling obedience unless they are directed by love for God and his glory. Of course, we can’t create that love; only the Holy Spirit can. Still, true leaders know the importance of nurturing love for God by means of wise words and kind actions. True leaders reflect God’s heart so those they lead can see it.

We cannot truly lead until we captivate hearts. An older model of leadership prized cut-throat fierceness, and iron-fisted determination. Right or wrong, many people today are more likely to follow leadership that respects and stimulates their desires. You can command followers by strength. But you can only draw followers by love. When you have control, you can make people do what you want, but when they are no longer under your thumb they will do what they love.

Positive leaders know that a God-honoring sense of duty never outpaces love. Godly pacesetters “lead followers continually into a deeper and more comprehensive love for what is most real, most true, most right, and most important.”[2]

2. Loving Leaders Project Love

Positive leaders transmit a spirit of warmth. Consider an analogy with Scripture. God’s Word deals frankly and firmly with sin. Yet, the strongest melody of Scripture’s song is that of redemption and salvation. Redemptive history is more like a smile than a frown! Likewise, positive Christian leaders face the difficulties of life with a tangible optimism you would expect from someone who has become God’s friend.

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