Leadership Principles for Everyone – Part 4

Continuing from Part 3.

Leadership Principle #11: A Leader Has Empathy for Others

Empathy is the ability to identify with another person so much that you feel what he feels. It is essential to true compassion, sensitivity, understanding, and comfort (p. 72).

Leadership Principle #12: A Leader Keeps a Clear Conscience

Dishonesty and artificiality are incompatible with true leadership. The leader who engages in double-dealing or deception will very quickly lose his following. Remember the first principle of leadership…that a leader must be trust worthy. Underhandedness, indecision, infidelity, and even ambiguity all sabotage trust and subvert leadership. And rightfully so. Insincerity is not a quality good people should tolerate in their leaders (p. 75).

Remember, good leadership is a matter of character, and a righteous character depends on a healthy conscience. To see the role of conscience in leadership, we need to look closely at this amazing God-given faculty of the heart and mind. The conscience is a built-in warning system that signals us when something we have done is wrong. The conscience is to our souls what pain sensors are to our bodies: it inflicts distress, in the form of guilt, whenever we violate what our hearts tell us is right (p. 78).

A defiled conscience, if tolerated or suppressed, makes real integrity impossible. Until the wounded conscience is cleansed and restored, guilt will assault the mind. Repressing the guilt may ease the pangs of conscience, but it doesn’t eliminate the fact of the guilt. Guilt and blamelessness are mutually exclusive. In other words, the person who dishonors and then ignores his own conscience is by definition not a person of integrity. A tarnished conscience therefore undermines the most basic requirement of all leadership (p. 80).

Leadership Principle #13: A Leader is Definite and Decisive

Good leaders must be able to make decisions in a way that is clearheaded, proactive, and conclusive. They must also be able to communicate objectives in a way that is articulate, emphatic, and distinct. After all, a leader is someone who leads. Anyone can waffle. Anyone can be timid and ambivalent. The leader, by contrast, must give clear direction. People will not follow if they are not certain their leader is himself certain (p. 81).

Leadership Principle #14: A Leader Knows When to Change His Mind

These twin principles go hand in hand. While leaders must be definite and decisive, they must not be utterly inflexible. The best test of a leader’s wisdom is not always the first decision he makes. Everyone makes bad decisions at times. A good leader will not perpetuate a bad decision. Circumstances also change, and a good leader must know when to adapt to circumstances (pp. 82-83).

Here, adapting to circumstances does not mean sinning or compromising a clear biblical principle. It is willingness to be flexible or yield one’s personal preference(s).

Leadership Principle #15: A Leader Does Not Abuse His Authority

In fact, the entire book of 2 Corinthians is colored by passion that arose from Paul’s personal disappointment over the Corinthians’ response to him. He had been severely wounded in the house of his friends. He had been devastated by the very people to whom he had most given of himself. Near the end of the epistle, he wrote, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (12:15). He was overwhelmed by pain and depression over the loyalty he experienced at the hands of people whom he loved and to whom he had given his life.

That is the price of leadership. It is a costly, lonely, and often thankless calling. Jonathan Edwards ministered faithfully in Northampton for twenty-four years. He pastored his people through the remarkable revival of the Great Awakening (which Edwards’s own preaching and writing had in no small way helped to ignite). Then his church dismissed him by an overwhelming vote, because he taught that only those who have made a credible profession of faith in Christ ought to partake of the Lord’s Table. At the end of his life, Charles Spurgeon, possibly the most effective Baptist preacher who ever lived, was censured by the Baptist Union in England because he opposed the encroachment of modernism in that organization. But the leader must nonetheless remain gentle, compassionate, empathetic, and humble. If he becomes resentful, repressive, or ruthless in his treatment of his people, he will lose his effectiveness as a leader (pp. 85-86).

Stay tune for Part 5.


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