Pastor: Do You Know the 7 Characteristics of Advancing Leaders?

I am a leader watcher.

Indeed I have observed and learned from leaders as far back as my memory takes me. At this phase of my life in my late fifties, I continue to enjoy watching and learning from leaders. My son, Jess Rainer, and I did a study and book on the Millennials. Our research included leadership issues related to this young-adult generation.

But my observations are not limited to just this generation. To the contrary, my leadership research spans multiple generations in multiple vocations. I am particularly fascinated to watch those persons who are obviously on the move, who seemed to be both present and future leaders. Recently, I made an attempt to summarize seven general characteristics of these leaders who are advancing in their organizations and in life in general. Here are the seven traits I noted, none of which should be a surprise:

1. Strategic.

Advancing leaders not only do what they are assigned, they are always thinking ahead. They take on responsibilities well beyond what their supervisors expect of them. While they do excel at tackling today’s work, they are always thinking about what needs to be done for the future betterment of the organization.

2. Joyful.

The leadership literature twenty years and older rarely mentioned joy as a characteristic of advancing leaders. That is not the case anymore. These leaders have devoted followers because the leader himself or herself has a joy that is contagious. As a corollary, advancing leaders tend to have fun with their work.

3. Articulate.

These leaders have good communication skills, both verbal and written. If they are not particularly adept at communicating, they make their improvement a high priority in their leadership development. Advancing leaders speak well and write well.

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Thom Rainer
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources ( Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.