What does it take to become an effective Christian leader? What are those essential skills and traits for improving your effectiveness in your church or organization? You’ve probably heard it before: develop confidence, live with integrity, ra-ra, bla bla. Those qualities are important of course, but what does it actually mean? What do you do? There are no easy three-step solutions. However, there are a simple changes that you can take in your daily life that will dramatically improve your power as a leader.
- Take an interest in your people. In his bestselling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie stated it clearly: “become genuinely interested in other people.” For Christians, this should be obvious (Philippians 2:3). Leadership is all about your people. As a leader, you are tasked with being a person who lovingly leads others. If you cultivate your love and interest in other people, you will improve as a leader. Leaders are communicators, and communication is a major area in which you can demonstrate interest in your people. Never speak condescendingly, interrupt others, or lose interest when people are speaking to you. Kindness and tenderness go a long way.
- Take time for personal development. Personal development, whether through a class, reading a book, or taking time alone, is a valuable leadership exercise. Taking time to self-reflect gives you greater confidence, and allows you to deepen your relationship with God. When you understand the factors that motivate you to act, to lead, and to think, you have much more control over the direction you take. Deliberate personal development also expands your creativity and vision as a leader. It becomes easy to merely slog through the bog of routine, never looking up, but only looking at the present. Journaling, brainstorming, meditating or attending a pastor’s conference workshop helps to realign your mind, and give you a greater ability to look ahead. Focusing on your own personal walk with God grows you as a leader. There is always room for improvement. Whether you want to grow as a pastor, as an innovator, or as an organizer, such growth is possible if you pray for it, plan for it, and pursue it.
- Plan for the future. Planning for the future is not an exercise in futility. It is an essential practice for any visionary. Planning can be a complex task. The process of planning involves more than simply declaring a goal and working doggedly toward that end. Effective planning also considers variables, plan B’s, contingencies, future possibilities, and new opportunities. Planning requires breaking down goals into manageable, action-oriented tasks. Planning is not a once-in-a-year event, but a daily requirement for true leaders. Leaders must be willing to let go of the clichéd “achieve your goals,” and instead “learn your goals” by making them a fundamental part of the way you think and act. Learn to process goals into action, and thereby to truly achieve them.
- Improve your communication. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” We as Christians know this to be true, especially since we are given the privilege of proclaiming God’s Word. Isn’t that what a leader is by God’s grace supposed to do — to persuade, to convert, to compel? The key to such power is effective communication. Going from a mediocre communicator to a great communicator is not easy. Improving your communication is not a simple set of tips and tricks. Think of it as a whole-person change, affecting everything, beginning with your heart.
Regardless of where you are in your personal development as a Christian leader, there is always room for improvement. These four suggestions will put you well on your way to leading better.