Three Essentials of Christian Leadership

According to human resource consultant William Heisler, three things emerge as real distinctives for the Christian who wants to be a God-honoring leader. Leadership success is the result of a leader’s commitment to a cause or goal, the personal character of the leader, and the extent to which the leader has real compassion for his or her followers. Here’s how you can cultivate each. 

Commitment to a Cause If you desire to get others to follow you, then follow the example of history. Be absolutely committed to a goal or a cause. Followers must see your passion and draw from it enthusiasm and confidence in their ability to achieve what has heretofore seemed unachievable.

Character Who you are when everyone’s looking and when no one’s looking. In positions of leadership, integrity is foremost among the essential character traits. Leaders must be credible and their followers must be able to rely upon their word. Trustworthiness is crucial and it’s largely manifest in how well the leader “walks the talk.” Jesus taught “out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). The internal drives the external. Character drives action. That truth works in the affirmative as well as the negative. “The credibility of leadership is what determines whether people will want to give a little more of their time, talent, energy, experience, intelligence, creativity, and support,” say leadership experts Kouzes and Posner Leaders of great character do great things!

Compassion for Your Followers Effective leaders create followers through their compassion—a genuine, heart-felt concern for the needs, feelings, and aspirations of those they lead. They are able to build effective teams because they care about those whom they are serving as much as they care about the goals they are seeking to achieve. As Peter Scholtes notes in The Leader’s Handbook, “Where relationships are formed and sustained, leadership occurs.” Jesus demonstrated this time and again in his work with his disciples. It was all about relationship—encouraging, sharing, loving, teaching, and when necessary, rebuking. But even the latter was acceptable because the disciples knew that Jesus cared greatly about them. His rebuke was for their growth and development. As the saying goes, “most people don’t care much about what you know until they know you care.”

Our Skill is Necessary but Not Sufficient In addition to these “three C’s,” leadership requires situational knowledge, skills, and abilities, among other things. But those of us in leadership positions, and most especially those of us who seek to honor God in our work, would be well-advised to take inventory of our commitment to a cause, the content of our character, and the compassion in our hearts. These attributes, when coupled with our skills, will earn us loyal followers, enduring results, and God’s “well done!”

(Adapted from Three Essentials of Christian Leadership, by William Heisler, 9/08)  

adapted by Gary D. Foster
Gary Foster Consulting
Gary D. Foster founded and leads Gary D. Foster Consulting, a marketing and management service specializing in helping religious product companies and ministries discover and optimize new revenue streams and to better leverage existing ones. He served as an executive with Focus on the Family, where he managed their award-winning book publishing operation and $110 million direct-mail fundraising division. He also spent 12 years with the Christian Booksellers Association, where he served as President and CEO of CBA Service Corporation. He also served in executive product development and marketing positions with Cook Communications Ministries, Moody Press and Moody Magazine. Learn more about Gary at
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