Many people have titles or positions and are sometimes called “positional leaders.” Positional leadership does not require talent or leadership skill; it only requires a title or position. Some may argue they are a leader yet don’t possess the qualities discussed below. Others might say they know pastors, staff, deacons, or others in positions of leadership who don’t have these traits.
I would argue the people in your church or organization who possess the qualities below are more than likely the real leaders. Leaders lead whether they have a title or not, whether or not they have a high position on an org chart.
Leading successfully is impossible without vision; you have to be leading somewhere. The journey has a destination point. Leaders lead because of a vision. They see the future before others, farther than others, and clearer than others.
They see into the future before others do.
As church leaders carry out their daily and weekly tasks, they must be intentional and proactive to ask themselves hard questions as they look into the church’s future. To think about the church’s effectiveness at making disciples of Jesus in its local community and around the world. Is the community changing? Do our people understand our mission? Can they see where we are going in one year or five years? Do they see the challenges we face? Is our current strategy, structure, staffing, and facility adequate? For how long? When should we consider changing or building or planting a new church? These are just a few questions every visionary leader wrestles with every day.
The leader’s quality to see before the others helps answer the “If” for the direction of the church.
They see into the future farther than others do.
If you could switch your eyes for eagles’ eyes, you’d be able to see a rabbit in weeds from a half-mile away. Leaders’ eyes are like the eyes of an eagle (even if we aren’t looking for rabbits or rats). As we look into the future we try to see things that other people don’t see until they are closer.
Many church-goers are dreaming about their past or perhaps seeing only from Sunday to Sunday. Others are looking forward a month or two, thinking about the next major church event. Visionary leaders are often looking years into the future and leading today with the future in mind. When the church is struggling, they look beyond the struggle to a better season in the future. They live, lead, preach, train, and organize toward the better future. They communicate and inspire the others toward the better future.
As a result of this vision the church’s future changes; it grows toward the future God has place in the heart of the leader. But in the process, obstacles, problems, and conflicts arise. Leaders anticipate them, see them arising and begin finding solutions, often while others in the church are still enjoying or adjusting to the new reality. Leaders must be disciplined to keeping looking ahead whether the current situation is perceived to be “good” or “bad.” The leader’s ability to see farther than others helps answer the “What” and “Why” for the direction of the church.
They see into the future clearer than others do.
You might also liken a leaders’ eyes to a magnifying glass, bringing things into focus; making them easier to see. They are able to see things others miss and clarify what those things mean. Other people may see something, but their vision is foggy at best. It’s the leaders who must help the others remove the blur and see the future of the church clearly. This might include helping them see future obstacles to overcome, or it might focus on a change in programming, strategy, or a building to be built. The leader’s quality to see clearer than others helps answer the “How” for the direction of the church.
Leaders lead! Yes, in the church they also preach and pray. But don’t think you can preach and pray your church into reaching the lost without leading them! (Did I really say that?) Most churches are not stagnate or dying because of poor preaching or no praying. There are thousands of churches led by pastors, staff, elders, committees, and deacons where excellent preaching and passionate praying are abundant—but where visionary leadership is absent. So preach with excellence and pray with passion. But don’t forget to lead with vision.