Leaders have taken on a powerful role throughout the history of humankind. Some of the most memorable and influential leaders have been those who wielded power on behalf of religious movements. The Bible contains a wealth of knowledge about leaders, drawing on religious, moral and spiritual lessons. Here, we explore how the Bible speaks to the qualities, roles and responsibilities of leaders both in the past and today.
Most Believers agree that leaders are expected to act with humility and integrity, developing what is known as a ‘servant leadership’ approach. This is because Jesus was considered the perfect leader by example, who left a traditional hierarchical leadership approach behind. The Bible teaches us that those in power should never forget their duty to serve, and to reach out to those less fortunate. This is starkly exemplified in Matthew 20:25-26: ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant’.
The Bible also highlights the importance of acting with wisdom. The story of King Solomon in the Book of I Kings provides a case in point. When God granted Solomon his wisdom and asked for nothing in return, he accepted the gift gratefully and became renowned for his wise judgments. This is in stark contrast to leaders of today who often resort to force rather than wisdom.
Another core lesson taught in the Bible around leadership is accountability. Exodus 18:21 states, ‘…But if you have a difficult case, you shall bring it to me, and I will hear it.’ The Bible warns against abuse of power, telling leaders to act transparently and be answerable for their actions. To act otherwise can result in a devastating legacy, as when Moses sent 12 spies to scout out the land of Canaan. 10 were negative and two were positive, resulting in a deadly punishment.
It is also clear that the Bible strongly emphasises the importance of community. The books of Joshua, Ruth and Esther make this point quite eloquently. By including the surrounding communities in their decision making, leaders can build coalitions that bring diverse perspectives to the table—which can lead to stronger decisions and better outcomes.
Leading With Honor
Leaders are also called to lead with honor. In the Book of Joshua, God commands Joshua to be strong and of good courage, and to treat the people with honor. This emphasis on honor is arguably one of the most important lessons for any leader. By showing respect and honoring the dignity of those who are in their charge, leaders can help to build respect, trust and loyalty—which are key components of successful leadership.
Leaders Versus Tyrants
The Bible does not stop at praising those who have led in a constructive manner; it also speaks out against those who misuse their power. Pharaoh in the Old Testament is often used as a cautionary tale of a leader who misuses their authority, and the consequences—plague and death—are dire. The same applies to any type of leader, be they spiritual or political. The Bible tells us that such leaders should not be followed, and can instead be replaced by people who will lead with integrity.
Direction From God
The last lesson, and perhaps the most important, is that leadership comes from God. While earthly powers may give people authority, leadership ultimately rests with God. This is exemplified by Jesus, who had no earthly riches or even a palace—but still commanded the attention of the masses. His story serves as a reminder that God is the ultimate source of all leadership, and should be looked to for guidance.
Above all else, the Bible teaches us that to lead faithfully, one must demonstrate a strong faith in God. Faith is the foundation of all our actions, and without it, our actions may be guided by our own motivations—not those of God. Those in positions of power should therefore act in accordance with their faith in God, as this will ensure that they are guided by His wisdom.
Leading By Example
The Bible also reminds us of the importance of leading by example. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden’ (5:14). By setting a good example for others, we can hope to inspire those around us to lead in the same manner. This does not necessarily mean that all decisions must be based upon God’s teachings, but rather that we should lead with integrity and respect.
Power Of Praise And Humility
Finally, the Bible speaks to the power of praise and humility in leadership. Although power can be a tool of great destruction, when used correctly, it can also be an invaluable asset. By respecting the power of others and praising those who use it correctly, we can remain humble and help to encourage those around us in their leadership roles.
Compassion and Forgiveness
The Bible also speaks to the importance of compassion and forgiveness in leadership. Leaders often have a hard time showing mercy to those under their authority; however, the Bible paints a different picture. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18, Jesus reminds us that mercy should be extended to those in need. This teaches us that a leader should lead with a compassionate heart, extending mercy and forgiveness where possible.
Respect For Authority
The final lesson from the Bible is to respect the authority of those in leadership. In the Book of Romans, Paul speaks of submitting to governing authorities, teaching us an important lesson about respecting the power of those in charge. Those who are under authority should remember that leadership is a great responsibility, and those tasked with the job should be respected and a willingness to cooperate should be encouraged.
To be a successful leader, it is crucial to follow the example of those set forth in the Bible. Doing so will help to ensure that any decision taken is based on sound wisdom rather than force, while also helping to build strong relationships with our teams. By showing humility, intelligence and mercy, we can lead in a way that honours God and brings positive outcomes to everyone.
Developing A Selfless Attitude
Leadership should not be about one’s own ambition; instead, it should be about serving others. This is something that the Bible emphasizes time and time again, from the passages about Jesus taking on the role of a servant leader to the countless examples of leaders who used their power to protect and provide for those in need. True leaders should strive to develop a selfless attitude, putting the needs of their people first.
Leaders can also benefit from encouraging open communication between their team members. Great leaders listen to those who speak, and use their wisdom to develop strategies that will benefit their teams. After all, leaders do not always have all the answers, and the Bible teaches us that wisdom is something to be shared. Through using this approach, leaders can empower those who follow them and help to create a strong and stable team.
Integrity and Transparency
The Bible also speaks to the importance of acting with integrity, and encourages honesty and transparency in all decisions. Sometimes this is easier said than done; however, it is essential, as leaders are expected to lead by example. By showing integrity, a leader can build trust, respect and loyalty from the people around them, all of which are essential for good leadership.
A Balance of Power
Finally, the Bible teaches us the importance of striking a balance between power and vulnerability. Often, those in leadership are expected to be strong and capable, but by allowing themselves to be vulnerable, they can demonstrate true strength of character. By showing vulnerability, leaders can open themselves up to constructive criticism and useful feedback that will help improve their performance.