"Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people." Isaiah 55.4


In 1978, Pulitzer Prize winner, and political science professor, James MacGregor Burns rightly assessed, "There is a crisis in leadership. One of the most universal craving of our time is a hunger for compelling and creative leadership."

While MacGregor Burns rightly points out the problem of our age, his concluding solution is violently incorrect. The principles of true leadership cannot come from men, nor from the imaginations of men. Although MacGregor Burns sets forth a series of useful precepts concerning leadership, he entirely misses the needful antidote for the crisis which America and the world faces. The world does not need more leaders, it needs more God-fearing, God-honoring leadership.

But what is true leadership? What is its source? What standard is it measured by? What is its nature and purpose? How does it interact with others? Is there such a thing as counterfeit Leadership? Is there a moral aspect of leadership, or is leadership to be judged according to a goal - or goals - accomplished? All these questions must be addressed first before true leaders can be identified and refined.


Leadership Defined

Leadership is not something you do - it is something you are. True leaders lead comprehensively - in every sphere of life, even when there is no one to follow. For the most part, leadership is a natural God-given grace. Yet, that grace, although evident, natural and perhaps strong, often needs refinement.

Leadership is the outward manifestation of a caring heart, passionately concerned for the Glory of God, the preservation of justice and equity, and for the universal good of the people. This is accomplished by the grace of God through a diligent effort, by the individual, to rightly perform that leadership duty.


Leadership is about People, Not Power

True leadership is relational. It's core, and root, focuses upon people, rather than things. Leadership is God-ward firstly, then people-ward after. With leadership comes power. It is the relationship with Holy God that limits that power and checks the rising of pride and arrogance. True leaders relate to God in humble sincerity and truth, which enables them to rightly lead, and relate to their fellow man, in wisdom, sincerity and truth.

Leaders are not managers. One who manages, manages things not people. Leadership is not based upon a command and control premise. Leaders do not manage, they inspire and persuade. Leaders focus upon people for their good and their benefit, with a self-sacrificial posture.

True leaders passionately acknowledge the organic Law of Heaven as the only legitimate rule for life and faith. They are also well instructed in its application to all spheres of societal life. True leadership endorses the application of God's standard as the only vehicle for cultural blessings and prosperity. 

Furthermore, when leaders focus upon God's legislative, judicial and executive Majesty, with the understanding that there are rewards and punishments for actions executed, a great sense of personal humility is maintained. Godless counterfeits do not recognize consequences for evil actions or selfish motives. They recognize no sovereign authority nor divine restraint. This attitude of conscience is only found among the God-fearing leaders. Therefore, only the God-fearing can be viewed as legitimate and beneficial leaders. 

Today's pseudo-leaders often fail to realize this sense of accountability. True leadership never uses tyranny, oppression or coercive power, of any kind, to bring about a desired result. True leaders gently, yet decisively, move the masses through inspiration and vision. They share their goal through God's revelation of logic and reason and execute it by wisdom. 

True leadership is infectious. It powerfully relates to people by first identifying with them, then caring for them, and finally persuading them, always honoring their God-given rights as image bearers of God. Godly leaders can be trusted because they are trustworthy.


Leadership - No Quick Fix

Contrary to popular belief, leaders do not surface overnight. Nor are they perfected in a day. Leaders are perfected daily, over time, amidst many diverse circumstances. True, effective, God-centered and principled leadership arises from long-term training and perseverance. True leadership does not develop from a "quick fix", "short term" approach. In other words, there is no "one" seminar that can produce a leader. Leaders are first born, then refined. 

Leaders are often not aware of their capability. It is often called out by others. While some leaders have initially shunned leadership positions, desiring to live a simple, quiet life, other great historical leaders have even gone so far as to run from the call of leadership.

We can begin our list with the Prophet Moses and continue through to Elijah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel, and the apostle Peter. History also bears out this fact in the early Church and in the Middle Ages with Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan (339-397), St. Augustine (354-430), Patrick, the missionary to Ireland (389-461), not to mention the Reformation leaders, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and William Tyndale, among many others.

While a careful study of these men will plainly manifest their humility and initial unwillingness to lead, it would be great error to conclude that this hesitation was from an unwillingness to serve God and the people. This unwillingness was due to immense sensitivity to the depth of responsibility of the task of leadership, and their personal uncertainty in executing it to God's Glory. 

Leadership is an office given to those who least expect it, but are perfectly suited for it.


Leadership and Ethical Purity

True leadership must be pure leadership. This is not to say that leaders must be sinless and perfect to be true leaders. Even some of the most God fearing leaders of Scripture were flawed in many ways. Yet leaders must be sincerely and totally ethical, striving for perfection even amidst their shortcomings. True leadership is committed to ethical motives, actions and results.

Leadership is all about ethics. True leadership can only be held by those who are of a moral and ethical excellence. Those who are best equipped morally and ethically, are those who have the most perfect standard of ethics and morally. That standard must, therefore, be the Law-Word of God.


True Leadership is Christ-Centered

And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe, lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.
Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801
"Jesus saith unto him, "feed my sheep."
John 21:17

The simple fact of the matter is that there is only one type of leadership which fits the definition of true leadership - Godly, Christo-centric leadership. Since true and beneficial leadership is based upon a sincere caring for people, and is to be firmly based in pure ethics and morals, then by definition the only true leadership is Christian based leadership. Cultures flourish under God-centered Christian leadership, while under tyrannical Godless rule cultures collapse. This dynamic is both doctrinally accurate and historically evident.

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Proverbs 29:2


Leadership is Ethics Based

True leadership and Biblical ethics cannot exist apart from one another. True leaders are Biblical leaders. A true leader analyses everything from an ethical standpoint. All law and policy is either embraced or rejected based upon its ethical purity. True leadership has it's world-view and long term vision beginning with God and ending with God.

True leaders are sincere followers of God and His Holy Counsel. Leaders are men of grace and men of Law. This is what separates true leaders from the counterfeit. While many may lead, there are not many that lead God-ward.

Godly leadership goes beyond simply leading. It is a shepherding vocation. True leaders embrace leadership responsibilities with fathering attitudes. This is why fathers must look upon their responsibilities with awe. By virtue of their fatherhood, they automatically become leaders. Yet, they do not automatically become good and Godly leaders. 


Godly Leadership is Generational

True leadership looks at the long term and plans over many generations. True leadership is leadership with a vision which goes beyond the next 50 or 100 years. True leadership is concerned just as much with the present as it is with the past, and very concerned with the future. Godly leadership looks at the "deep future" and makes it possible.

Soli Deo Gloria

Originally published in 2003