A few years ago, Jim Collins write a fantastic book, “Good to Great.” How to move from being a good leader to being a great leader. If you are like me, you want to be the best leader you possibly can. What does a great leader look like? Rick Warren shares 4 characteristics of great leaders.

Becoming a great leader

Originally posted by Rick Warren

4 Characteristics of Great Leaders

If you’re a pastor or church leader, God has given you a task much bigger than you can handle on your own. Leadership in 2020 has certainly put a magnifying glass on this truth. At times this year, I’m sure your work has seemed utterly impossible.

The book of Nehemiah shows the importance of good leadership in the completion of a project. With the right leadership, the Israelites were able to complete a project in 52 days—a project that, for 80 years, people had said couldn’t be done. When you get the right catalyst, important projects get finished. 

What kind of leader does your church and community need? Nehemiah shows us four critical markers of a great leader. 

Compelling Purpose

You need a vision that drives you forward. Nehemiah had that. When some of Nehemiah’s enemies tried to entice him into leaving his work, he responded, “I am doing a great work” (Nehemiah 6:3 NCV). Nehemiah was very single-minded. He committed to his project because he realized he was doing something that mattered.

Great lives are produced when they’re committed to a great cause—and the greatest cause is the Kingdom of God. Nothing else lasts for eternity. Too many leaders get distracted with trivial matters. If you want to lead your church to accomplish a great task, start by making God’s Kingdom your priority. Leave everything else behind.

Clear Perception

You also need to be able to see trouble ahead of you. As a leader, anytime you attempt something big, trouble will come your way. Nehemiah had incredible discernment. Every time a trap came up, he sensed it. For example, he knew what his critics were planning: “They were planning to harm me” (Nehemiah 6:2 NCV). And when these same men accused him of setting himself up as a king to eventually rebel against the Persian king, Artaxerxes, Nehemiah said, “Our enemies were trying to scare us” (Nehemiah 6:9 NCV). 

How did Nehemiah know this? He was perceptive. 

You’ll need this kind of perception as a leader, and you can only get it one way. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God” (James 1:5 ESV). When you spend time in the Word of God, you begin to take on the mind of Christ and become a more perceptive leader. 

Continual Prayer

Nehemiah was a prayer addict. Prayer was always his first response, regardless of what happened. Notice in Nehemiah 6 that he didn’t get defensive. Nor did he retaliate when the critics started making false accusations. He simply said what they said wasn’t true—and prayed about it.

That’s all you need to do, too. If people are falsely accusing you as a leader, you don’t need a lengthy defense. Just say, “It’s not true,” and then take it to the Lord.

Courageous Persistence 

To tackle the big projects in your community and in your church, you can’t give up easily. Keep doing what God wants you to do! Just because you show courage during difficulties doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is moving ahead despite your fear. 

In verse 11, Nehemiah said: “Should someone in my position run from danger?” (NLT). Certainly, Nehemiah felt fear. He knew his life was in danger, but Nehemiah knew he was near the finish line. He refused to run away. 

It is never God’s will for you to run from a difficult situation. Instead, God wants you to face troubles as you pursue God’s best for your church and community. 

Look through history—from Nehemiah to the present time—and you’ll see these four characteristics are present in every leader who reaches God-given goals. 

So ask yourself:

  • Do you have a compelling purpose that drives you forward?
  • How’s your spiritual sensitivity?
  • Are you praying constantly for what God has called you to do?
  • Are you persistent in doing God’s will?

Everything rises and falls on leadership.