I will admit my surprise to the importance of leadership when I became a vocational minister. No one took the time to share with me what leadership is and how to lead others. To say its been a learning curve would be an understatement. Nevertheless, through counsel and a lot of trial and error, I’ve discovered a key approach to leadership that serves me well.
Lead From the Front
There are times when the pastor must lead from the front. By this I mean publicly and directly. Leadership demands this. When we began our ministry in Frankfort, it was clear to me that this was the immediate need. Things like casting a vision, working with staff, changing a culture, etc. require full attention and direct leadership. Unless one is willing to say, “we are going to go in this direction” and also “we will not be going that direction” then you will struggle mightily as a leader.
There are times when issues fall on your desk that require a decision. Some of these can be trivial (what date should we do x, y, or z?). Others require courage. Managing staff, confronting sin and abuse, etc. There can be no doubt that leading from the front is necessary.
When doing so, I have found it best to consider a number of things. First, should we move slower? There have been times when I wanted to see us move in one direction that the church was not ready for. Thus I found it best to take a slower approach. Secondly, is this a biblical issue? When the truth of Scripture and the veracity of the gospel is at stake, we must always be willing to lead from the front. Thirdly, is it worth your chips? In leadership you are always depositing and withdrawing. Major decisions and change require a large withdraw. It is worth considering if such a withdraw is worth it.
Lead From Behind
Sometimes we can be bullheaded and insistent. Doing so will eventually alienate others and divide our congregation. Being bullheaded doesn’t make us courageous, it can prove us to be fools.
I have found it helpful to at times lead the church from behind. By this I mean that it is helpful to show the church and its leaders the direction it needs to go and trust their structure and members to go in that direction. Maybe its a new building project. You could hire a contractor and sign the papers, or you could take the time to lead the church to see their need.
The reason why so many pastors are unwilling to lead from behind is because it is a slower process. Often painstakingly slow. People despise change and if not forced will avoid it. Leading from behind is not passivity, it is purposeful, though patient.
When I lead from behind, I take advantage of every sign I can. At meetings, in personal visits, in sermons, etc. It is when the collective see it that they are more ready to follow you as you now lead from the front.