Books and articles on leadership are never ending. Everyone has something to say about leadership. Many people pursue positions of leadership while others actively avoid positions of leadership. We as people each individually need to be led. Whether we know it or not we will follow something or someone because we are creatures who follow. I believe that this topic of leadership is as relevant today as it was fifty, one hundred or even a thousand years ago. Even in an “individualistic society” we need to seek Biblical thinking on leadership. What does the Bible say about leadership? The church has leadership and needs to not only talk about Biblical leadership but needs to pave the way in exemplifying leadership. Last year on the West Coast we saw the consequences that can happen when church leadership fumbles the importance of putting solid Biblical leadership into practice. So here are five leaders (or leadership practices) that God will not bless.
1. The Leader who Goes Ahead of God
We know that God says that those who wait will be blessed but waiting is hard work, isn’t it? Especially when we’re doing work for God it can be easy to associate forward thinking initiative as a positive thing but not in God’s economy. I don’t believe there is ever a Biblical precedent for going ahead of God. We are to always follow God. We are to wait for God. It’s His work. It’s His timing. So let’s not get ahead of Him.
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. (1 Sam. 13:8-9)
2. The Leader who Doesn’t Listen to God
It does not matter what a man’s religion or lack of faith is in, we each and every single one of us worship something or someone. Similarly, each of us follows something or someone. It has been said that no man is an island and while this might not be popular advice in today’s world the truth remains that He who cannot follow, cannot lead. It’s the age old principle that you cannot lead people somewhere you haven’t been. If you want them to follow you and yet you’ve never been a follower how on earth do you expect to be a leader? In church especially I have seen far too many young leaders who do not yield and do not bend to follow. They mistake this unwillingness to follow as a sign of strength and mistake rebellion as some sort of leadership potential. But if we cannot follow flawed human leaders how can we follow God who is perfect? He who is faithful with little will be given more, no?
Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” (1 Sam. 15:13–14)
3. The Leader who is a People Pleaser
It seems to start innocently enough, as leaders we want to keep those who follow us happy. It’s so much easier to lead relatively happy, satisfied, non-disgruntled people than it is to try to lead a bunch of grumpy, unhappy, dissatisfied people. However, giving people what they want is not always what they need. If as a leader you seek to keep the people under you happy you are doing them and the organization you’re trying to lead a major disservice. If people only follow you because you keep them happy, they will find reason soon enough to become unhappy and disgruntled.
“We are not called to please people so that we can achieve a more secure identity. We are called to love people out of the secure identity that we already possess, the one that was bought for us through the redeeming work of Christ.” –Charles Stone
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
“That’s your job as a leader…to take people where they need to go, despite how they initially feel. It’s often a difficult job. That’s why your job is not always to give people what they want. It is to lovingly, prayerfully lead them where they need to go.” –Carey Nieuwhof
4. The Leader who is Self-Centered and Power Hungry
Have you ever met someone and the most striking thing about them was that they were haughty, arrogant and snotty? I have and if I can be honest those people turn me off and make me want to run away. Sometimes that arrogance can come across as confidence or charisma and makes a person seem like a good candidate for leadership. People are often attracted to someone who knows who they are and where they want to go. However, if a leader is on an ego trip then watch out. The Scripture says, God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Blessed are the humble and poor in spirit, right?
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave…” (Matt. 20:25-27)
5. The Leader who Doesn’t Follow Godly Counsel
Who do leaders surround themselves with? What sort of counsel do they seek? Is it godly wisdom that has stood the test of time? Do they listen to their elders? If a leader is self-sufficient or surrounds themselves only with peers then watch out! God blesses those who seek out godly wisdom and mentors. He is not interested in the independent self-made leader. He is close to the broken hearted, humble advice-seeking leader. Leadership is a huge responsibility. Leaders are wise to seek out godly counsel as they consider the next course of action.
…the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men… (1 Kings 12:13-14)
So heed the warning. If you are or want to be a leader then be sure you do not follow the examples of Bible-time leaders God did not bless. Be the sort of leader who listens to God and follows through in obedience. Do not get ahead of God. It’s His work so be willing to be on His timetable, not your own. Don’t be a people pleasing leader. People who only follow those who please them will soon find reason to be unhappy and will follow someone else. Don’t let your ego get too big because everything you have could get taken away and given away. Last, listen to godly counsel from people who love Jesus and are older than you. If you don’t know anyone who fits that description then you need to find a mentor. Then you will have a much better shot at being a leader that God blesses.