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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

09 Sep '12

Leaders must lead from the front in these areas

Posted by T.J. Addington in Healthy leaders

For all the talk about leadership today, staff members don’t listen as much as they watch – and consciously or unconsciously follow the example of their leader. The rhetoric of leaders only matters when the words and the practices of leaders are in alignment. If not in alignment, it will be the practices that are most often followed.

There are some areas, therefore, where leaders must lead from the front. Leading from the front is not about what we say but what we practice in some key areas of our lives. It is these practices which give our leadership moral integrity with our staff. And without this moral integrity, we will not have the influence we need to lead in ministry, no matter how gifted we are.

Here are some questions that healthy leaders ask themselves on a regular basis. And where they catch themselves slipping they deal with it – their leadership depends on it.

Am I living with personal integrity?


Personal integrity is present when my beliefs match my practice – when my theology matches my lifestyle. As Paul told Timothy, “watch your life and your doctrine closely.” This matters in both our private and public lives because lack of alignment will eventually show itself in our character – even if we have tried to keep it hidden.

Personal emotional health is directly connected to the alignment of our stated beliefs and our personal practices. We are only whole as leaders when our beliefs match our practices. It matters.

Do I keep my word?

Words matter. They are powerful indicators of our character because they either point toward character or away from character depending on our propensity to keep our word or not. Promises not kept are deadly for moral integrity. As Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” It is better to say nothing than to promise something one does not intend to follow through on.

A key component in keeping our word is that of being clear about what we believe and what we intend to do. When a leader, in the desire to be popular is not honest about her or his intentions, they are not being honest and will inevitably be seen as not having kept their word.

Do I model healthy relationships?

Few things get in the way of healthy ministry more than unhealthy relationships: ongoing unresolved conflict; treating people with disrespect; lack of fairness; using people for our purposes or lack of empathy.


Staff members are acutely aware of whether their leader treats people well or not – regardless of whether they are above them, at their level or below them in the organizational chart. Few things will erode moral authority more than poor treatment of people and conversely few things will develop loyalty and respect as healthy relationships.

Do I keep organizational commitments and live the mission?

Every organization has a set of commitments, values or practices that it expects its staff to keep along with a mission that it is living out. One of the reasons that values, guiding principles or expected practices are not lived out is when staff do not see their leaders living them out.

For instance, a pastor might be adamant that his staff be loyal to him and support him but they know that he is not loyal to his board or support them. The lack of alignment between expectations and practice on the part of the leader undermine his moral authority with his staff. Staff will only take organizational expectations seriously when they see that their leader never compromises them themselves.

Am I open?



Leaders who are approachable and open, even when staff may disagree with them model an undefensive spirit that is a key component to a healthy organization. All too often, however, leaders feel that disagreement equals disloyalty (in fact, staff members who are willing to tell you the truth as they see it are actually the most loyal – if they have the best interests of you and the organization in mind). Lack of openness creates a climate of intimidation and fear within an organization where staff members know they cannot be honest.

Healthy leaders display an attitude of “nothing to prove, nothing to lose,” and are open to different ideas, constructive criticism and robust dialogue.

These five questions, asked of ourselves regularly, can ensure that we lead with the moral authority needed for long term success in a healthy environment. What we model as leaders is more important than what we espouse because when there is a conflict between the two, what we model is what our staff will believe.