As believers, we recognize the value of imitating Jesus and His leadership style. But if we really think about it, it’s strange that we try to emulate a leader who never developed an organization, regularly encouraged people to stop following Him, and ultimately saw His death as the pinnacle of His accomplishments.
What kind of perspective must a leader have to place high value on these kinds of strategies? Jesus was not a manager. His primary role was to function as a spiritual leader.
Not all leaders in religious organizations are spiritual leaders. This is not a criticism as much as a distinction. Distinguishing spiritual leadership from other forms of leadership can free people from unrealistic expectations of some leaders.
At the same time, making this distinction can help identify who the spiritual leaders in your organization are. Here are six characteristics that identify most spiritual leaders:
1. They lead others into their own encounters with God.
One of the most effective things about Jesus’ lifestyle was that He didn’t switch into another mode to introduce His disciples to the reality of God. Whether standing in the synagogue or picking wheat along the path, interacting with the Father was so natural that others around Him could not help but do the same. Whether a spiritual leader is training a new employee or working through a difficult conflict resolution, his followers will discover their own connection to God more deeply in the process.
2. They lead others to discover their own purpose and identity.
Spiritual leadership is characterized by great generosity. A spiritual leader genuinely wants others to fully discover who they were made to be. Workplace issues and strategic development become tools to help followers discover their own identity and overcome obstacles standing in their way. People functioning in an area of their created identity and strength will always be more productive than those who are simply trying to fill a position or role.
3. They lead others into transformation—not just production.
When the goal is spiritual growth and health, production will always be a natural outcome.
People function at their peak when they function out of identity. Helping your followers discover that their own transformation can happen on the job will engender loyalty and a high level of morale.
Spiritual leadership fosters passion in those who follow. Passion is the ingredient that moves people and organizations from production to transformation.
4. They impact their atmosphere.
While we may not stop a tempest with our words, spiritual leaders recognize that they can change the “temperature” of a room, interaction, or relationship.
Changing the atmosphere is like casting vision, only it is immediate. When there is tension, fear, or apathy, a spiritual leader can transform the immediate power of these storms and restore vision, vitality, and hope.
A spiritual leader can fill a room with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness, even while speaking hard things.
5. They help people see old things in new ways.
Many people are stuck not in their circumstances, but in their perspectives and paradigms. The word “repent” means “to think differently or to think in a different way.”
Jesus called people to look again at old realities through new eyes. Changing ways of thinking always precedes meaningful change.
6. They gain a following because of who they are—not because of a position they hold.
Spiritual leaders can be found in secular organizations in the same way managers and organizational leaders can be found in religious ones.
Spiritual leaders influence more than they direct, and they inspire more than they instruct. They intuitively recognize that they are serving something—and Someone—larger than themselves and their own objectives.
Question: Who has been a spiritual leader in your life? What sets this person apart from other leaders?