I’ve been around a lot of leaders over the last two decades. I’ve worked with zealots, plodders, rule-followers, and wanna-bees. I’ve seen those who want to lead a great group but can’t though they try with all their might. And I’ve seen those who seem to lead so easily that it’s like a knife cutting through warm butter.
In all the lists of habits of great leaders, the focus almost always lies on the actions of the leaders. But most often one is not listed which seems to have a huge impact upon groups that go on mission. The leaders are not just people who do the right things. They are actually the right people. They are the real deal. They are people of character.
As I watch leaders and those who lead groups that make a difference, I’ve found that character is a crucial thing. The inner life of a leader, who they are when no one is looking, the attitude of a leader toward others, the genuine Spirit-directed love has a huge impact. I guess we don’t talk about this much because these are intangibles that are beyond our control. Character is developed over time through trials, successes and failures.
Today is Thanksgiving. So I’ll use this day to illustrate an aspect of character that is crucial to group life but often goes overlooked because it relates to the state of our hearts. It’s easy to be thankful when everyone shows up to our meetings, when people are growing and maturing and when the group is committed to loving those who don’t know God’s love. But leaders of character know that the time to be most thankful for the people they lead is when these things are not happening. They are thankful simply because the people they lead are loved by God. They are thankful not because the people are doing the right things but because they are prized children in God’s family.
Often church leaders are professional complainers. And it seems to me that missional leaders take this to another level as we complain about the state of the church and the mediocrity of our people. If we want to change things we won’t do so with a character shaped by complaining. We do it by being thankful.
Of course we know that’s there’s more to to character than thankfulness but for today this is a great place to start.