Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Leadership is “the ability to lead; an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction.”
Church leadership is about how we behave, communicate, and manage others.
This word is used in many forms to describe countless things, but it is ultimately the act of leading a group of people in a shared direction.
To be considered a leader, you must have people who will follow you.
And successful professionals demonstrate leadership characteristics even while continuing their own personal development journey.
They are life learners and take pride in developing others.
Managing a church staff requires managers and leaders who can influence how work gets completed.
Effective church leaders have certain traits and characteristics that affect their interactions with others.
“Leaders are people who do the right thing;
managers are people who do things right.”
14 Church Leadership Traits
1. Person of Influence
Leaders influence others to get things done. They help others see what needs to be done and then show them the path forward.
Anyone can be a leader–kids can be leaders. Did your mom ever say, “She’s a bad influence on you”?
Your Mom’s concern is that that person influences your thoughts and behaviors.
Positive influence is what we’re going for. Leaders often influence us even though we may not be aware of it.
The hospital’s CEO, whom I worked for, would walk down the hall and pick up trash off the floor.
This example of leading by doing naturally influenced employees to do the same.
It was an unspoken but powerful way to influence others.
2. Big Picture Thinker
Leaders are big-picture thinkers and can rise above the day-to-day and see things from a broad perspective.
They can excite people about where they’re going and how to get there.
People often get stuck in their own little corner of the world and need help seeing things from a bird’s eye view.
Employees need to get out of their cubes and hear stories of how their work impacts those the church is reaching.
My pastor does a great job of providing employees and volunteers with testimonies of people whose lives the ministry has touched.
This shows the person who cleans the bathroom that his or her work helps to impact the lives of others.
3. Believe the Best in People
Influential leaders always give others the benefit of the doubt (“a favorable judgment given in the absence of full evidence”) and believe the best in people.
A true leader first gathers all the facts before drawing final conclusions.
It’s amazing how one-sided a situation can look and how different it seems when you have all the information.
My husband always says there are three sides to every story. Make sure you know all the facts before making judgments.
4. Others See Them As Credible
There have been many sad examples of leaders who have fallen when they live double lives, and their integrity is inconsistent in every area of their lives.
A leader’s personal life must be consistent with his/her professional life. He/she should be the same – no matter who is around.
Employees can quickly recognize when a leader’s actions do not align with his/her speech.
Leaders must maintain credibility with the people they lead.
This means they do what they say, say what they mean, and can communicate honestly with others.
5. Teacher and Mentor
Leaders are gifted teachers and love to help others develop.
- They model leadership principles.
- Help others to be credible people.
- Identify employee growth opportunities.
- Coach others on personal development.
- Are not afraid of delegating responsibility and enjoy seeing others grow professionally.
Leaders are not threatened by people who are smarter than they are and enjoy seeing others succeed.
I always told my staff that I would know that I did a good job if I could walk out the door one day and know that things would go on as if I were still there.
Pulling people up behind us is how we all grow.
6. Master Delegator
Leaders develop others and learn to delegate responsibilities.
This is done by allowing others to make mistakes and helping them learn from those mistakes.
We learn best from making mistakes, and allowing others to gain knowledge from their own mistakes is an invaluable lesson.
All of us have had a starting point in our professional development, and allowing others to learn through experiences helps them grow professionally and gain self-confidence.
7. Empower Others
Leaders empower others and recognize that making front-line decisions and taking risks is part of the development and learning process.
People need to be comfortable taking risks, making decisions, and learning from their mistakes.
For instance, leaders will ask the hard questions and learn from the answers.
Establishing boundaries and allowing others to test decision-making skills and problem-solving not only helps with employee development but also takes the bottleneck out of addressing issues.
Regardless if the issues are internal (employee to employee) or external (organization to customer).
The most important aspect of this is not allowing the employees (or volunteers) to feel like they are hanging out there by themselves.
Debriefing after a mistake is made and coaching them to think of what might have been a better approach is part of the learning process.
It is very much like parenting: sometimes, you need to allow your kids to fall down and pick themselves back up. That is how they learn.
8. Team Player
Leaders are team players and work well with others to get things done.
They operate out of a win-win philosophy and help others collaborate and agree on tasks.
Church leaders are skilled at managing team dynamics and developing team cohesiveness.
They do this by holding team members accountable for their actions and keeping them focused on the team goal.
9. Celebrates Successes
Effective leaders can recognize success and help their teams celebrate those successes.
This is a critical component of team function and development.
Rewarding performance, showing employees appreciation, and celebrating successes help to keep team members motivated and engaged.
Celebrating even small successes provides the motivation and fuel to go after the bigger targets.
No success is too small to celebrate and can be as simple as a public acknowledgment of a job well done!
10. Have Balanced Priorities
Leaders have a good understanding of their personal priorities and can keep all aspects of their lives balanced.
They understand the importance of setting personal boundaries and giving family as much focus and attention as their professional responsibilities.
They unapologetically recognize that leadership is a marathon and not a sprint, and they understand the importance of pacing themselves so they don’t run out of gas before the race is complete.
This can be difficult in today’s fast-paced environment, but successful leaders know how to work faster and more efficiently to achieve this balance.
11. Ethics and Integrity in Business Practice
The success of any ministry is built on the trust of its congregants, volunteers, and the public.
The best way to gain that trust is to demonstrate ethics and integrity in church operations, not because of legal requirements but because it is the right thing to do.
For instance, does your church comply with Music Copyright Laws?
The integrity of any organization affects all customer groups and every area of business operations, which is why incorporating ethics and integrity into the core fabric of the ministry is crucial.
“Do the right thing. It will gratify some
people and astonish the rest.”
Churches that operate with integrity do so intentionally, making it part of their culture and everyday practices.
This culture of honesty and trust helps orient new employees to understand that operating with integrity is “the way things are done around here.”
Building integrity into the culture is the foundation for ethical practices.
Churches that strive to do the right thing benefit by establishing a reputation for high ethical standards. It starts at the top and flows throughout the entire organization.
12. Transparent Accounting Practices
Transparency with finances is a basic expectation of members, volunteers, and employees.
It serves no one when churches mismanage funds, whether intentionally or accidentally.
Careless accounting practices limit a ministry’s ability to manage its financial resources and can threaten its tax-exempt status.
The church board should determine the boundaries for ethical behavior.
And a Code-of-Conduct Statement is a great way to establish boundaries and set expectations for employee behaviors.
This conduct statement should include conflicts of interest, confidentiality, respect for others, legal compliance, etc.
Don’t be naive enough to think that church employees are exempt from unethical conduct.
A written code-of-conduct statement that employees sign when hired helps them understand behavior expectations.
14. Management Practices
Management practices are the foundation for organizational integrity, whether it is a commitment to serving the members or managing employment practices.
Unresolved issues can tarnish a ministry’s reputation, and employees observe how leadership responds to issues and follows up on promises made.
Employees who trust management are more engaged and supportive of ministry efforts.
Creating a culture of strong leaders is important because it affects an organization’s ability to meet goals and achieve its strategy.
Church leaders are responsible for setting the standard for behavior while preparing others for greater responsibility.
True leaders are marked by their ability to demonstrate ethical behaviors while helping others maximize their potential.
Learn more tips for managing your church by enrolling in our Church Administration Training Course.