Leadership Lifter – July 2009



That is a law of life.  Look at history.  The Civil Rights movement was nothing until a man came along named Martin Luther King and said, “I have a dream” and then provided leadership.  The NASA space program was nothing until a guy named John Kennedy said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.”  A man by the name of Ray Crocks said, “I want fast food at a convenient price in a clean atmosphere,” and he invented an entire industry called fast food.  Saddleback Church started because God said, “Rick, I want you to be a leader and get the thing off the ground.”  When you have problems in your own family, you will not find a resolution until somebody in the family assumes leadership and says, “We’re going to do something about it.”  Everything rises or falls on leadership.  Most problems can be traced to a lack of competent leadership.  


If I had to summarize leadership in one word it would be influence. That influence can be positive or negative.  A leader can be identified immediately – whether it is on the playground, in a group of teenagers, or in a committee meeting.  Very often, it is not the “official” leader.  It is the person everyone keeps looking at to see what he or she thinks.  Every time you influence somebody you are assuming leadership.  In I Timothy 4:12 Paul told Timothy, “As a young man be an example in leadership.”  Age has nothing to do with leadership.  You can be an influence at any age and you are a role model whether you like it or not.  The issue is not whether you are a leader.  Everyone is a leader – whether at home, school, or work.  The issue is whether or not you are a good leader. 

A Biblical definition of a leader:  A leader is someone with God given ability and responsibility to influence a group of God’s people to accomplish God’s purpose for that group.


If you want to know whether you are a leader or not, look over your shoulder.  Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice and I know them and they follow me.”  In I Cor. 11:1 Paul said, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”  We all need human role models.  Sure we are to follow Christ, but we also need human models to follow.

John Maxwell’s parable of leadership, “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.”

Leadership has absolutely nothing to do with titles or position. It has to do with influence. There is a big difference between having a boss and having a leader.  Many people have authority but they don’t have leadership.  I’ve been in a lot of churches where they have elected leaders but the church is really run by brother “so and so” who everyone knows is the real leader, the real pace setter.  If you are not influencing anybody, it does not matter whether you think you are a leader or not, you are not.


A lot of TV evangelists have had charisma, but they have failed because they had no character.  They had major character defects.  The foundation of leadership is character, not charisma. Charisma has nothing to do with leadership.  Charisma is not a prerequisite to leadership.  Character is.  If you do not have character and credibility,  nobody is going to follow you. 

Reputation is who people say you are, character is who you really are.  D. L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark when nobody is looking.”  In I Timothy 3:1-13, Paul defines the necessary characteristics of a church leader.  Not once does he mention the necessity of a seminary education. Leadership is not based on academics. It is based on character – on who you are.

Leaders are found in all types of personalities. There is no one leadership personality.  Never say that you want to be like another leader.  In fact, if you try to imitate another leader you will likely burn out because you won’t be using your unique gifts. God wants to use your personality.

Great leaders do have certain traits in common.  These are found in Hebrews 13:7-8. “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  This passage gives us three characteristics of good leaders:

  • They have a message worth remembering.  When they talk, people listen.  “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.”  Evidently, there is something worth remembering there.
  •  They have a lifestyle worth considering.  “Consider the outcome of their way of life.”  Does their walk match their talk? Does their life match what they say they are?
  •  They have a faith worth imitating.  “Imitate their faith.” 

 If you want to be a good leader, you need to develop a message worth remembering (What is my life message?  What does God want to say to the world through me?), have a lifestyle worth considering and have a faith worth imitating.  That’s all character.


 Every one of you can be a great leader.  Philippians 4:9 tells us, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put into practice.”  Leaders are made, not born.  There is no such thing as a born leader.  They are made by the way they respond to circumstances.  You can take two people in the same situation, and one of them will end up being a leader, while the other washes out because of the choices they make. 

 The priority of training leaders can be seen in the ministry of Jesus.  Mark 3:14 tells us, “He appointed twelve that they should be with him and he should send them out.”  Jesus had a public ministry and a private ministry.  His public ministry involved preaching, teaching, and healing.  His private ministry involved training the disciples.  Even within the twelve, He had an inner circle of Peter, James, and John.  Those three went to the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Mount of Transfiguration.  In Galatians, Paul said Peter, James and John were the pillars of the church.  Jesus invested the maximum time with those who would bear the maximum responsibility.  He fed the masses but He spent most of His time training leadership.  Leadership can be learned.


All leaders are learners.  The moment I stop learning, I stop leading.  The moment I, as a pastor, stop growing, Saddleback Church will stop growing.  You must always be developing and growing and becoming what God wants you to be. Learning to be a leader takes a lifetime.  If you stop learning, you are not only short-changing the people that you lead, you are also falling short of God’s plan for your life.

Rick Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church and the best-selling author of many books, including The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.

4 Responses to Leadership Lifter – July 2009

  1. su says:

    Like your principles about leadership. LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE and LEADERSHIP CAN BE LEARNED. These words are the truth in itself.

  2. Outstanding article. I will continue to grow and share. Thank you

  3. nathe says:

    Hey Rick, great stuff! I’m in an older church that has leaders that have been here for years. I’m the pastor but not the leader. I’ve been here 3 years and things are somewhat the same. I get along with the leaders, but they seem not to listen to what i think God is leading us to do. What do you think i should do? I like the church and we are growing, what’s some steps i can take to have more of an impact. Thanks Nathe

  4. Jerry Brush says:

    I’ve been striving to have these qualities for a long time. Thanks for the encouragement!

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