March 4, 2015

6 Characteristics of the Best Church Leaders: Are You One?


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“Leaders of successful churches are tempted to stop working on themselves, but when the pastor doesn’t grow, the people don’t grow.” – Dr. John Maxwell

Leadership is hard and often ugly. It has its growing pains, and church leadership is no exception. In our service at Vanderbloemen Search Group helping church leaders build and maximize their teams, we have found that the best church leaders are always looking for ways they can develop as a leader and follower of Christ. Staying stagnant is easy. Great church leaders don’t choose what is easy; they choose what is best for their team.

If you’re reading this article, you likely care about developing yourself as a leader. While this list isn’t comprehensive, here are six characteristics we see in the best church leaders.

1. The best church leaders are life-long learners.

The best church leaders possess an insatiable curiosity. They are in-tune with the fact that they don’t know everything and consistently seek out ways to improve and expand their skill set.

They ask questions like:

  • “What are the best church leaders out there doing?”
  • “How can we do this better?”
  • “How can we solve this problem?”
  • “Is my staff fully equipped to achieve the goals we have set for our ministry?”
  • “Is our church’s mission and vision being communicated in all things?”

At our company, great leaders ask us every day, “What are the best church leaders out there doing?” At Vanderbloemen, we’re passionate about helping church leaders become life-long learners, so we’ve created a video training series for church leaders who want to build, retain, and maximize their entire team. If you’re interested in this tool, let us know here.

2. The best church leaders listen intentionally.

As Tim Stevens explains in chapter 32 of his book Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace, the best leaders listen first. Tim says, “There is nothing that will empower and encourage your team more than to know you listen to them.” Great leaders listen intentionally, and listening is more than just being present. Being present in a meeting but still checking your phone every five minutes isn’t listening.

3. The best leaders have a mentor.

The best leaders understand that there is much to learn from leaders who have gone before them. If you don’t have a mentor, ask yourself, “Who is someone that is where I want to be in 10-20 years?” and ask them to coffee. Pick their brain and ask them how they got where they are. Ask your mentor to meet with you on a regular basis. That might mean on a monthly basis or a few times a year.

4. The best leaders live on the solution-side of life.

Do you have a victim mentality or a solution mentality? Victim mentality includes blame shifting and the thought process that every challenge is due to someone else’s doing. Solution mentality is realizing that life is full of hardships and challenges, but that it’s our responsibility to ask the question, “How can I make this better?”

When faced with a problem, great leaders are collaborative and ask their team for input into how to solve problems that the team is facing. In fact, we believe that “solution-side living” is vital to a healthy team, so we have made it a Vanderbloemen Search Group company value.

5. The best leaders are open to being wrong.

Have you ever worked for someone who had to be the smartest person in the room? These leaders hire “yes men and women” who always respond with “yes” and are too afraid to disagree with the leader or express their opinions.

Great leaders don’t have all the answers, and they know that. They are humble and willing to admit when they are wrong or when they need help. Great leaders staff for their weaknesses, meaning that they bring people onto their team who have strengths that supplement their weaknesses as a leader. Great leaders also ask their team for feedback. This makes the entire team and organization as a whole stronger.

6. The best leaders are emotionally healthy.

Everyone has their ups and downs, but the best leaders have a NAP each day. And I’m not talking about sleep. The best leaders have a Non Anxious Presence (NAP). They understand that they will face challenges and roadblocks, but approach each one with truth and grace.

Emotionally healthy people have balance in their life. They know when to say yes and when to say no. They know when they are about to burnout and how to slow down. They have people in their life who tell them when they are out of balance and help them focus on what is important.

We believe emotional health in leadership is so important that we wrote a downloadable white paper on the topic: 8 Ways To Spot Emotionally Elite Candidates.

The best leaders understand that becoming a great leader takes time and a lot of work. Those that are willing to put in the effort to continually grow will take themselves, their team, and their entire ministry to the next level.

Photo Credit: Bev Goodwin via Compfight cc

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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