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What is Leadership?

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

It’s an important question to ask.

Here are what a few experts have to say…

John Maxwell, a famous leadership guru in Christian circles and leadership training, defines leadership as influence. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as taking risks and challenging the status quo.

Still others say ...

“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” - Peter Drucker

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” - Warren Bennis

Apparently, even experts disagree on the same question: What is leadership? There is some truth to each of these definitions, and if they help you understand leadership better, use them. However, after many years, I have come to see leadership a bit differently. We will look at leadership, not from a worldly perspective, but from a biblical one knowing that Jesus was the greatest leader of all time. Who else but Jesus took a handful of guys and changed the world?

What Leadership is NOT?

Title or Lording Over

Leadership is not about having a prestigious title or having an excuse to rule over people and boss them around.

Facade and Deception

While this does happen, leadership is not about putting on an act or deceiving people that are suppose to trust you.

Taking Only The Best

Leadership is not about taking only the best for yourself. Leading is not selfish.

An Easy Job

Finally, leading is NOT an easy job. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it is.

Leadership According to the Bible

My definition of leadership comes directly from the Bible, rather than the hottest book or trend. Jesus Himself was known for the amazing character traits found in a passage that you may hear at weddings:

“And now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13.1

Jesus personifies faith, hope, and love. Therefore, a godly leader will follow in the footsteps of Jesus possessing these same character qualities. Leadership is faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

Leadership is Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is a combination of vision and trust.


Let’s look at Moses’ life. He was called to lead the Israelites out of slavery and into the Promised Land. There were many conflicts, so Moses had to roll with the punches. Leading the Israelites came with many challenges, which Moses probably didn’t anticipate. Moses received his vision from God and then executed God's plan. Faith makes all the difference.

Moses wasn’t merely a manager; he was a leader. In my opinion, there is a difference between the two. Being a good manager doesn’t mean you are a good leader. I see myself as an example of this. When I first went into the ministry, I didn’t feel capable of successfully creating a vision for a future I could not see. Let me tell you, it is way easier said than done. However, I found a solution to this problem.


I would pray, “God, thank you for the management skills I need, but Lord transform me from a manager to a leader.”

In order to have a vision, you have to hear from God. God has all the vision you need to fulfill His dream in and through you. This played a large part in my life during the year 2007, as I had a vision for a new sanctuary at Engage Boise, the church my wife, Debbie and I pastored. At the end of 2007, people pledged a total of $110,000 to build the new sanctuary. It was enough to get started. However, the economy tanked in 2008 and by the end of the year, we had only received $40,000. I wondered, what to do with only $40,000 when the promised $110,000 did not come in? It was not enough.

Then, the Lord said, “Do what you can with what you have in your hand.”

I presented an idea to the board about building an addition to the current sanctuary. They were in favor. After this, I presented the idea to the church body. With a unified spirit, we all decided to move forward. Fall arrived and we dedicated the new addition to the sanctuary. We finished the project with the money provided and witnessed miracles in the process.


In this example, there was a great amount of trust between myself and the church body. They trusted me and I trusted them. Together, we trusted God. Now, my question for you is, "Can the people on your team trust you, do you trust them, and together are you trusting God?" Also, can God trust you?

People follow those they trust for the long haul. Make sure your people can trust you. Follow through on what you say. Be a person of integrity. Let trustworthiness clothe you and become a part of you.

Also, you must be able to trust the people you are leading. Your team must be trustworthy.

Lastly, trust God. There have been many times I stepped out of the boat so to speak, trusting in God and not my own understanding.

Leadership is faith expressed through vision and trust.

Leadership is Hope

An optimistic attitude can go a long way. I discovered this in my early 20s while working as the director of food service at a private college. Over time, I realized whatever attitude I came to work with, was contagious. If I came into work with a grumpy face, most of my staff soon had a grumpy face. If I came in with a positive attitude, my people had a positive attitude. Optimistic and opportunistic hope is a critical element in leadership.

When things are not going according to plan, people are discouraged, money is running out, or everyone is struggling… the leader must remain positive.


Because leadership is hope. If a leader cannot provide hope for his people, he has already lost them. With this, chaos, confusion and despair will come. A leader needs to understand that even in tough times, God is growing us and He has a plan. Maintaining this hope will not only motivate you, but also your people. When everyone else is thinking failure is inevitable, the leader is hopeful and instills hope in others knowing God will make a way.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Leadership is Love

When I think about love as an aspect of leadership, I often think about a person named Alta. She volunteered to lead our children’s ministry many years ago at the church. At first I wasn’t sure she would be a good fit due to her age, but she proved my assumptions to be wrong. Even though she and her husband made a very meager living and could barely make it financially, she poured out her heart to the kids. She invested in them every week, and most importantly, she loved them sincerely. Alta positively influenced a generation of children. As a result, her leadership legacy lives on.

This is so important because leadership without love is not true leadership. The Bible explains exactly what love is so that we may love like Jesus in every area of our lives.

It says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8…

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Allow me to paraphrase this passage while also replacing the word love with leadership. Leadership perseveres in patience; Leadership is kind and merciful; Leadership does not envy; Leadership does not boast or inflate oneself. Leadership is never rude, selfish or quick to be angry. Leadership is pure and integral, always celebrating the truth. Leadership bears, believes, hopes and endures all things.

When you lead with love, it will never fail.

Leadership is…

Leadership is more about giving than taking. Leadership is about authentic relationships and investing in others. Leadership should never have a “me first” mentality. It is giving credit to others when there is a win and taking ownership when there is a loss. Remember, if you do nothing else, love your team and your people as much as you love yourself.

Leadership is faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

What to do next?

Consider adding these qualities to your leadership style. Comment on, like, and share this blog so others can learn about leadership, too.

Shilo Guidance Center is a not-for-profit corporation that strives to help people from all walks of life. If you are interested in donating to our cause, click the Donate button below!

[1] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Cor. 13:13.

[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Heb 11:1.

[3] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 5:3–4.

[4] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Cor. 13:4-8

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