I worked with a guy in a church once who thought he was a great leader. He read all the books from leadership gurus (Christian and secular) and was always trying to implement the next greatest time management system or leadership paradigm. He once offered me all of his materials and notes from a John Maxwell seminar he attended a few years earlier because he “was beyond all this now.”
The problem, though, was that he was not a leader. First of all, arrogance never leads. It is one thing to be confident in one’s own abilities, but outright arrogance is an immediate turn-off to those whom we are supposed to lead.
Second, for all his leadership knowledge (and I am using the term loosely here–knowing vocabulary from books is one thing, knowing how to implement it is quite another), he was a very poor communicator. He would have a big picture idea that was never truly communicated, and then would end up taking over or micromanaging in the extreme to get the job done because no one else understood the same idea.
Third, he never looked around to see if the people around him were actually following him. Someone once said that if a leader is not bringing people along with the vision and has no one following him, he is simply taking a walk. This man was talking a walk quite a bit.
Finally, for all his understanding of leadership and organizational principles, he never inspired the people around him to follow him. He expected people to follow him. After all, he was the leader. It never occurred to him that he needed to encourage people, inspire people, and work with people to make sure they had the same vision, and then move forward.
When leading in the church, God does indeed raise up leaders. God does give some visions for the future. But we function as a body together. There must be consensus among the body that the vision is actually God-given, and not something that came from somewhere else (pride, ego, devil, etc.). And if it is a God-given vision, God will include others in on the vision and provide the people with the gifts and graces to accomplish that vision. (For all his autocratic tendencies, even Francis Asbury understood this aspect of leadership. He was appointed by John Wesley to lead all the Methodists in America, but Asbury would not accept the appointment until all the preachers who would be under him voted to elect him to that position. He wanted the preachers to voice their approval of the vision and would not exercise his authority until they did.)
Then it is up to the leader not to dictate how things should happen, or worse take over when it doesn’t happen exactly how the leader thinks it ought to go, but rather it is up to the leader to consistently reinforce the vision and share the vision with those around him or her. Since the vision is from God, and the people with the abilities to accomplish it are from God, the leader becomes a bulletin board for God. Every time the people see the leader, they are reminded of what God has called them to do, just as every time we pass a bulletin board we see announcements and flyers and are reminded of what is going on in the community.
Leaders are successful, then, when they see the vision, communicate the vision to others, and reinforce the vision for the sake of the kingdom.