The Nature of
Biblical Leadership

The general principles of biblical leadership apply in any context - civic, community, corporate, or church. Spiritual leadership especially is both a great honor and an awesome responsibility! I have always encouraged my students to be eager to answer the divine call to lead in both secular and spiritual vocations. I also urged them to be careful to understand biblical leadership.

In my own career as an entrepreneur, business leader, senior pastor, university president, community leader, and state official I have functioned a wide variety of contexts in which to cultivate and apply the principles of biblical leadership.

Many of the characteristics of biblical leadership have universal application in all aspects of human society and endeavor. However, in the context of spiritual or ecclesiastical leadership Christian leaders can only effectively lead people who...

...are in relationship with God;

...are learning to trust God in their lives; and

...accept both the importance and the limits of a spiritual leader's ability to meet their needs.

In this article I will lay a threefold foundation of understanding of the biblical leadership: the content, the cost, and the crown of spiritual leadership.

Click on the links below to read additional articles on Biblical Leadership.

What is Leadership?

Paul's Leadership Style

Servant Leadership

Charismatic Leadership

Handling Confrontation as a Leader

Handling Criticism as a Leader

7 Qualities of Great Leaders

10 Ingredients of Successful Leadership Management

The Content of Biblical Leadership

Two characteristics of the leadership of John the Baptist reveal the core content of biblical leadership.

A leader points people to the person of Jesus

A leader requires three qualities to effectively point people to Jesus.

Humility: John says, “He [Jesus] must increase...I must decrease" (John 3:3). This is important spiritual principle is affirmed by James: "God resists prideful people, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). True humility is seeing one’s self accurately in view of reality and in the light of eternity.
Esteem: John recognized and acknowledged his own significance, but also viewed it in relation to the significance of Jesus. He says of Jesus, "one mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose" (Luke 3:16). This highlights two very important questions a leader must ask...

How great do I believe God is?

How great do I think I am?  

Relationship: John was able to recognize Jesus and point others to Him because he knew him and had relationship with him. "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) The leadership principle is you cannot give away that which you do not possess!

A leader models and ministers a message of truth

There are three keys to John's success as a spiritual leader.

Separation: John separated himself from the world-system and the hypocritical religious-system of his day. “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.”(Matthew 3:4)

Simplicity: John developed a simple, healthy lifestyle.

Self-identify: John understood his mission and calling and was confident in himself. He was not impressed or intimidated by self-interested religious leaders or corrupt political leaders and boldly confronted them. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:7-8).

The Cost of Biblical Leadership

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it.” (Luke 14:28)

I teach students that there is four-fold cost to biblical leadership:

1. Higher personal standards

"Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified." (James 3:1 - The Message)

"You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1)

A leader "must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap." (! Timothy 3:7)
2. Lower privacy fences

I call this the "fishbowl" effect. The accountability inherent in all leadership means there is more visibility and less privacy for leaders. This applies not just to leadership execution but also to general behavior, attitudes, family life, business and financial affairs of leaders. 

When you live in a fishbowl... someone is always watching!

3. Greater opposition

"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove... There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors!" (Matthew 10:16, 22 - The Message)

4. Less for self

In the practice of biblical leadership a leader must often give up for the sake of others what his own flesh wanted.

"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27 - The Message)

The Crown of Biblical Leadership

1. The reward of changed lives.

2. The reward of personal growth.

3. The reward of significance and purpose.

Leaders have a sense of purpose in God’s eternal plan.

Consider the testimony of St. Paul: "I was so enthusiastic about the traditions of my ancestors that I advanced head and shoulders above my peers in my career. Even then God had designs on me. Why, when I was still in my mother’s womb he chose and called me out of sheer generosity!" (Gal 1:14-15 - The Message)

4. The reward of confidence with God.

Do you share Paul's confidence? "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

5. The reward of eternal honor and riches.

"Those who are wise[a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)

In the parable of the nobleman and his servants, the former rewards the faithful stewardship of the latter: "Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities" and so on (Luke 19:11-27).

6. The reward of biblical leadership and wise stewardship in this life is rulership in the kingdom of God.

Leadership Library

Leaders are made not born. You can learn the principles and cultivate the skills of successful leadership.

Here are some of the leadership resources that have personally helped me over the years to become a better and more effective leader in business, Christian ministry, and higher education.

The views expressed in any of these resources do not reflect the opinions of Free-Online-Bible-Study.Org and Teach the Nations, Inc.

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In my experience the success or failure of any and every endeavor is determined by leadership. The absence of leadership, bad or weak leadership leads to poor or mediocre results.

Good leadership based on common sense biblical principles will always yield positive results.

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Ken Blanchard is Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies and a globally respected expert in workplace learning, employee productivity, leadership, and team effectiveness.

This is another text that I used with my doctoral students. Every ministry leader, corporate executive, and elected official will become more effective by applying the principles Blanchard presents.