Who are you leading? If you are truly a leader, there are obviously people who are following you. The most apparent answer is, “My church staff” or “my employees” or the people who populate your organization. The real answer, however, is a little bit more nuanced. As leaders, we must be keenly aware of the people we are leading if we are to do a good job. There are actually five spheres of leadership, and we as leaders must be adept in each sphere.
Sphere 1: Lead Yourself.
An individual who cannot lead himself cannot lead at all. Leadership of the self is crucial. As a leader, you must know where you’re going and how to get there. Self-discipline, decision-making, confidence, and determination are all part of the package. There’s more to it, though. Leading yourself means following someone else. Effective leaders will submit themselves to the leadership of God as they seek to fulfill their own responsibilities.
Sphere 2: Lead Your Family.
Your most important leadership responsibility is to your family. You may lead an organization with thousands of people and worldwide influence. You may manage millions of dollars in finances. You may influence hundreds of churches and other organizations. Yet if you are not adequately leading your own family, you are a poor leader. God’s blueprint for church leaders (1 Tim 3) insists that the leader “must manage his own household well, with all dignity” (1 Timothy 3:4). We live in a go-go, busy-busy world. Too often, our families get our leftover time and our spent energy. We don’t give our families the leadership and love they deserve. Leading our family, however, is far more important than leading our organization. Other people can lead the organization. Yet only one person can lead your family — you.
Sphere 3. Lead Your Leadership Team.
Who is in the next sphere of your leadership? Much of today’s Christian leadership is short-sighted. We attempt to hone our leadership skills, our influence, and our speaking ability, but we look past a core group of people whom we are supposed to be leading — your leadership team. Even if your organization doesn’t have a well-defined “leadership team” there are nonetheless people whom you can and should mentor. If you are a pastor, this group of people may be your elders or deacons. If you are a Sunday School teacher, this could be the people who assist you in teaching the class. If you work in a management position, these people could be those who work directly underneath you. Regardless of your role or level of leadership, there are people closest to you whom you should pour yourself into in a leadership/discipleship role. This will pay enormous dividends both in your life and in theirs, while at the same time increasing your leadership ability.
Sphere 4. Lead Your Church or Organization.
Finally, there are is a sphere of leadership that deals directly with the people in your organization. This is the realm we most commonly think of as leadership. Keep in mind that while this group may constitute the largest number of “followers,” it still but one of the spheres in which you must exercise leadership. This group is, of course, incredibly important. Do not neglect it, but do not elevate it to such a level that it blinds you to your other leadership roles.
Sphere 5: Lead Your Audience or Observers.
There is a final sphere of leadership that is much broader. You may never see these people, meet these people, or know who these people are. These are the people who observe you from afar — people who read your blog, hear about your organization, read about you in the paper, see you on TV, or vote you into public office. You may not ever appear on TV or get a newspaper writeup, but all leaders have some level of leadership beyond our own organization.
What’s important about this list is to understand the wide range of our leadership responsibilities. Such spheres are not necessarily to be thought of as levels of priority, although they can provide a helful guide. The important thing to realize is that leadership is a lot more than perhaps we originally thought. It involves leadership that constitutes a wide range of responsibilities. Our leadership must be agile enough to adapt to each sphere, and energetic enough to faithfully fulfill each one. Leadership requires a lot from us. No one said it was going to be a cakewalk. Thankfully, we have the Ultimate Leader, our sovereign God, who is guiding us as we try to guide others.