Misunderstimations of Leadership – Leadership

Leadership I love the phrase I first heard on the lips of our last President, "They misunderestimate me." Grammatically off, humorously wonderful. To misunderestimate is to underestimate, and when it come to leadership in the Kingdom, there are many virtues and/or realities that we misunderestimate. This new series of posts will examine some of these.

We begin with leadership itself. With striking regularity I continue to hear people question whether we make too much of leadership. I think it's virtually impossible to do so.

It all begins with God. He then typically chooses to use leaders. He always has. Try as we might to convince ourselves that no one should have too much "authority" or that everyone has something to offer, we allow these beliefs, both true in their own way, to lead us to a "misunderestimation" of leadership itself. In fact, autocracy or failure to develop other leaders isn't proof that leadership's importance is overestimated–or that it's something to be feared. Abuse of power and poor leadership development are actually futher signs of a need for good leadership–which uses power wisely and is passionate about leadership development. 

In this post, I'm not going to elaborate much on precisely what good leadership is. I've done so numerous times in other posts. This post's purpose is to say that for many people and churches, leadership continues to be misunderestimated. Some have been burned by bad "leaders." Some have simply never experienced good leadership and are thus ignorant of it's capacity. For instance, some churches believe it's "leaders" are leading because they occupy the office of leader (preacher, elder, board member, etc.) and thus gage leadership's value by the performance of those that occupy those offices. A leading office doesn't equal leadership. Leadership equals leadership, and ideally those with gifts of leadership would be chosen for leadership in the church. However, as we all know, it doesn't always work out that way.

This I know: Strong leadership is one absolutely vital component of a church or organization's ability to thrive. Maxwell's law of the lid is, if not 100% accurate…pretty close. A church or organization will likely not rise above it's leadership. So, we need to continue to pay attention to this one…understanding strong leadership as a blessing from God and a spiritual gift rather than something to be feared or kept in it's place.

Question: Do we make too much or little of leadership in churches? Do you think we seek it or fear it more?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Misunderstimations of Leadership – Leadership

  1. Dean,

    I believe the church needs more saints, too. To me, a leader must have a saints character. However, I don’t know that every saint is a leader. I need to do some more thinking about this. I haven’t read Harris’ book, so I don’t know how he defines it. If he means godly character, I’m with him. However, when I refer to leadership, I refer to something different than a title or role. I’m speaking of the Romans 12:8 variety…a gift that comes from the Holy Spirit.

    • I think we’re much too concerned with whether elders have the leadership “gift” and not enough about whether they are truly saints (again, the biblical definition). Frankly, gifted leaders that aren’t saints aren’t just inadequate, they’re dangerous. As Jesus said, bad trees can’t produce good fruit, no matter how hard they try. In fact, if an elder isn’t a saint, the more “gifted” they are at leadership, the greater the threat they are to the church. Those of us that have been abused by extremely gifted, but spiritually bankrupt, leaders know that only too well.

  2. Randy Harris is right when he says, in his latest book, that the church doesn’t need leaders, it needs saints (the biblical definition). It’s leaders that aren’t saints that’s destroying the church. Everything else is just window dressing.

  3. I can’t believe no one has commented.
    Every church has “leaders” but I see too many churches that don’t have leaders. There is a drought in what good leadership is and does. Time and again we can regale one another with stories about how a church is having struggles because of egos and agenda driven leadership.
    Scripture tells us whom and how to choose leaders but we seem to ignore it for our version which chooses people who might be good at their job and their work and are really nice people who are respected, but don’t have the skills necessary to lead a church in it’s mission of the Gospel.
    I see it too often and it hurts.