Usually, I don’t like meetings. They score at the top of the list of “time-wasters” for leaders with a bias for action. But one meeting stands out in my mind. I am still feeling the impact of what I learned.

A number of years ago, a presentation was given by Jan Hettinga, Senior Pastor of Northshore Baptist church in Bothell and author of Follow Me. Jan’s material was good; but when we got to the “interactive learning” section of our time, we took a quantum leap as far as interest and liveliness was concerned. Jan raised the issue of what makes a leader safe and unsafe to followers and to Kingdom effectiveness.

We generated a list of what constitutes UNSAFE LEADERS. From that came a list with SAFE LEADER characteristics. Here are some of the safe and unsafe traits of a leader that we discussed.


We can also think of this as dangerous. What makes a leader dangerous or harmful to followers and to Biblical fruitfulness and effectiveness? I am reminded of the person who prayed: “Lord, save me from your followers.” Could we not also pray, Lord, save me from some of your unsafe leaders?

  1. Insecure
  2. Won’t give or share credit with others
  3. Can’t receive correction
  4. Intentionally unaccountable
  5. Always has to be right

When we finished discussing each of them a bit, Jan looked at us with his steely eyes and said, “Gentlemen, this is us.” I could be this type of leader except for the grace of God. I felt like I was sitting at the Last Supper and asking myself, “Lord, is it I?”

A number of years ago a friend shared a list of qualifications for future missionaries for his organization. He asked me what I thought. One item was missing from his list. I told him that the missing item was slowly but surely climbing to the top of my list of essential ingredients for an effective leader — having a TEACHABLE SPIRIT.

Much of what you see on the above list stems from not being teachable. In Proverbs 5:12,13 NLT we read, “And you will say, how I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to those who gave me instruction?”


After we had emotionally recovered a bit from the impact of the first list, up went a second list:

  1. Frequently ask those you lead what they think about an idea, proposal, concept
  2. Affirm others
  3. Place yourself under Biblical and human authority
  4. Give credit easily and readily

Nothing profoundly deep here. You’ve probably heard it before. But there is a big difference between knowing and doing. Maybe it’s time for a little introspection. How are YOU doing? Are people safe or unsafe with your style of leadership? Has anybody you lead been praying, “Lord, save me from my leader?”