The last post was about the topic of Community in leadership development. Leaders will not survive alone and Christian leaders will not maintain their integrity, creativity, character, and courage to fulfill their God given mission alone. Leaders, especially spiritual leaders, must seek out and remain in a community of peers for the rest of their leadership lives if they do not want to become another statistic. Now I will turn my attention towards the Competency of a leader. This is the second “C” in my paradigm of the five areas of leadership development.
Competency is defined as the quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually. Competency is about a leader’s gifts, skills and abilities. A leader’s competencies are what aid him in getting the job done. These can be natural, supernatural, and acquired traits. All three areas can be further developed with intentionality.
Every Christ-centered leader has spiritual gifts given to him by God to be stewarded towards the mission and for His glory. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 provide us with lists of those supernatural abilities that were stewarded to us at the moment of salvation. I believe that one of those gifts (see Romans 12:8) is that of leadership. Yet I don’t believe that only those with the spiritual gift of leadership should lead. While I do believe that every leader has a God given capacity for leadership that cannot be greatly expanded upon (I will save this discussion for another post), 1 Timothy 3:1 tells us “ . . . if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” If leadership is primarily defined by influence then many can aspire to lead and utilize their spiritual gifts uniquely in how they influence others. Every person also possesses certain natural abilities that will be an asset to them in leading. Some are simply better public communicators than others—or they possess greater organizational skills, etc. These too are from the hand of God but may not be categorized under the heading of spiritual gifts. And every leader through intentional effort can acquire certain skills that will help him lead more effectively—like problem solving skills, team building skills, planning skills, etc.
I will follow the advice that was passed on to me third hand from Howard Hendricks when it comes to the declaration of one’s gifts and abilities. First, gifts and abilities are more discovered than sought out or derived. There are three primary ways of discovering your gifts and abilities: gift analysis tests, what others affirm in you, and simple trial and error. I recommend taking gift inventories or ability tests—there are many good ones on the market and can be quite helpful in suggesting what may be true of you. But I would lean more on what others affirm in you and your personal experience over time. Hendricks said that it is important for every spiritual leader to try on as many things as possible in their 20’s. This is a season of life of great energy and optimism and lends itself well to broad ministry experiences. Many leaders want to specialize straight out of college. But it is better to make yourself available to do all kinds of ministry tasks to see where your gifting and passions lie—do administration, public speaking, personal counseling, evangelism, etc. Hendricks went on to say that a leader should begin to narrow down their focus during their 30’s. In other words I can do many things but these few I desire to do. By a leader’s 40’s they should begin to arrive at the point of saying “This one thing I must do!” From their 40’s through the rest of their lives will be their greatest stewardship for the cause of Christ as they are most passionately engaged in that which they are gifted for and motivated to do.
As we are discovering our spiritual gifts and natural abilities we must be intentional about developing that which God has given. Good leaders are learners. I firmly believe that one of the critical components of remaining fresh and humble as a leader over the course of life is to remain teachable. Since no human leader possesses the gift of omni competence we can still learn something about leading until God calls us home. Let me also say that personal development relies on you—not your boss or some other mentor or person you look to for direction. Each leader must take personal responsibility for their own leadership development. And while part of your development plan may include mentoring—it is your responsibility to devise and pursue a development plan. Continue to look for leadership mentors, leadership books, leadership courses,and fresh leadership experiences to bolster your leadership abilities. Never rest on your laurels. Leaders can become very stodgy when they begin to settle on their haunches of leadership learning. Be open to new paradigms, new skills, new experiences and the advice of even younger leaders. You have not cornered the market on how to lead.
Before I close on this post I must shout out a warning when it comes to leadership competency. That is because our greatest assets can become our greatest downfall. What I have seen in myself and in the lives of other spiritual leaders is that when fear enters the equation our greatest temptation is to lead only out of our competencies. And if you are not tempted to be afraid in your leading then you are either leading nothing of significance or you are blind to the realities around you. Fear always barks at leaders—fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of succeeding, fear of the opposition. And while logic might tell you that in the face of fear our greatest temptation will be to quit—I have found that instead most leaders re-double their efforts based solely on their competencies and try to work their way out of whatever fear they possess. The problem is that our competencies are nothing apart from the empowering presence of Christ. They become tools of manipulation and selfish power under the guise of fear. And over time everyone knows it but the leader. Re-read Romans 5:1-5. But this time look at it through the lens of leadership fear and see how it forms you. Leading from fear can only lead to competency based leadership which will lead to pride—and pride is always a leader’s downfall.
So learn and develop your leadership competencies—be determined to be a good steward of all that God has given you. But remain teachable and full of faith as you stand in the grace of the gospel. It is only through Christ that you will lead well and point others rightly to Him.