Few things are more powerful than a mature leader. And few things are more dangerous than an immature leader.
An immature leader is like a grenade with the pin pulled. You don’t know when it will go off, but you know it will, and when it does it’s going to be messy.
I’ve come to deeply appreciate mature leaders and my respect for them rises quickly. Staff members who are mature are worth their weight in gold.
It’s OK to start immature, we all do, but at some point it’s time to grow up, and lead for the good of others.
I Corinthians 13:11 makes this truth clear:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
Maturity isn’t merely about age and experience. You can be young and mature, or older and immature. Maturity is an inner quality that resonates through all the components of a leader’s life. This doesn’t mean that a mature leader has “arrived.” We all have moments of immaturity, but it’s easy to identify the primary patterns of a mature leader.
6 Primary Life Patterns of a Mature Leader
1) A mature leader takes responsibility for their own actions.
This is arguably the most important factor to discern maturity. It’s not the only factor, but until a person takes responsibility for what they do and say, they are behaving immaturely.
When I was a kid and did something dumb, my mom would ask me, “Why did you do that?” I often said, “I don’t know.” That’s how a child answers, and the implication was simple: I wanted to. That’s it. (Regardless of how it affects others.) When I do or say something dumb, as an adult, I need to own it. I need to call it what it is, and take the appropriate action—be it an apology or action to correct it. Further, I should not repeat it.
2) A mature leader continues to love even when they don’t receive love in return.
Whether it’s your children, spouse, co-workers, employees, neighbors, etc., let’s be honest, you don’t always “feel the love” right? We have all experienced that. Jesus demonstrated this kind of unconditional, even sacrificial love for all of us, and we all fall short. But He set the high standard for us to strive after.
As a church leader, you may have a regular attender, leader or even a board member who is not treating you with the respect and kindness you deserve. When someone doesn’t interact with you in a loving way, love them anyway. This isn’t easy, but your love toward them will likely go a long way toward resolving whatever conflict may exist.
3) A mature leader demonstrates a surrender to God.
It’s hard to admit, but it’s easier to submit to God’s will and plans for our church and our leadership when things are going like we want them to. When things are tough and not immediately according to our prayers, the definition of surrender seems to become negotiable.
Maturity demonstrates a unique blend of confidence and humility. This quiet confidence comes from a knowledge that God gave us the talents and gifts we have, and provides the power that allows those abilities to result in changed lives. Mature leaders are at ease within themselves.
It’s understandable if young leaders are unsettled and restless. They need time to learn how to handle insecurities, discover who they are and how God has designed them to lead.
In time, however, maturity reveals itself when a leader is comfortable in who they are and personal insecurities have become minimal. This personal security allows you as a leader to invest your energy into making progress, solving problems and helping people, rather than trying to get people to see you as something other than you are.
5) A mature leader values accomplishment over status.
Mature leaders want to make a difference and immature leaders want to be noticed. Immature leaders are more concerned with status, org charts and what people think about them. Mature leaders want to know the vision, what is expected and find personal delight in getting the job done.
6) A mature leader learns from mistakes and continually improves.
It can be frustrating when a gifted and talented leader seemingly refuses to learn from their mistakes. It might be anything from a lack of discipline to an independent spirit, but when a capable leader repeats the same mistake over and over, even with coaching, they are revealing immaturity. To be blunt, they just want to do what they want to do.
Mature leaders continually learn, grow and improve. They get better at what they do. This enables them to handle more responsibility, love more consistently, lead in surrender to God, live comfortably in who they are and seek meaning over status.