Leadership & Formation #2

Leadership & Formation #2

From my point of view Dr. J. Robert Clinton, professor emeritus of leadership for the School of World Mission of Fuller Theological Seminary, does the best job defining leadership and a leader from a biblical point of view.  He defines leadership as follows.

“Leadership is a dynamic process over an extended period of time in various situations in which a leader utilizing leadership resources and by specific leadership behaviors, influences the thoughts and activities of followers toward accomplishment of aims usually mutually beneficial for leaders, followers, and the macro context of which they are a part.”

It’s his definition of a leader, however, that captures the significance of being God’s leader for me.

“A leader is a person with a God-given capacity and a God-given responsibility to influence a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.”  Dr. J. Robert Clinton

Regardless of which definition you may prefer, one word is repeated frequently and is at the heart of leadership.  That word is INFLUENCE!

Let’s examine J. Robert Clinton’s definition as a leader more closely.

A leader, as defined from a study of Biblical leadership, is a person . . .

  • …with God-given capacity (denotes giftedness capacity in terms of spiritual gifts, natural talents, and acquired skills and suggests leadership character, as well as potential to be developed.)
  • …AND with God-given responsibility (denotes a downward sense of responsibility, a burden from God, to influence others for God; and, an upward sense of responsibility, accountability to God, for the people being influenced.)

…who is influencing

  • …a specific group of God’s people (those to whom the leader is given charge by God, those he/she is responsible for and may include direct and indirect influence over them).
  • …towards God’s purposes for the group.  (The prime function of leadership is the influencing of groups so as to accomplish God’s purposes involving the group.  This requires vision).  This external direction is what distinguishes a Christian leader from a secular leader.  Christian leaders must move followers toward recognition of, acceptance of and participation in bringing about that God-given vision.

A focus on leadership or a leader does not, in any way, diminish the role and function of a manager.  Comparing a leader and a manager has often been reduced to a simplified contrast – leaders lead people while managers manage things.  Managers also manage people.  The following comparison between leadership and management is more nuanced and accurate.


Sets Vision

Provides Motivation

Sets Standards


Personal Authority Required

Future Focus

Grows & Enhances



Implements Vision


Implements Standards

Organizes & Plans

Positional Authority Required

Present Focus

Arranges & Tells

What is even more profound is the fact that God chooses his followers to facilitate His redemptive purposes in the world.  He selects men and women to provide leadership and management to accomplish his agenda.

As stated earlier, the quality of leadership and management expressed is totally dependent on what authority informs, conditions, and establishes it – the world, the flesh, the devil and his minions, or God.  Sometimes great change benefitting others arises from despicable motives.  The results do not, however, justify the means used to produce them.  For instance, a company builds a factory in a depressed area providing desperately needed jobs.  The motive of the company, however, is to make as much money as possible regardless of the harm it is doing to the environment through careless disposal of manufacturing waste that is polluting the water supply. 

Motives matter.  God judges the motives of our heart.

Proverbs 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

1 Chronicles 28:9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

What informs the exercise of your leadership or management?

What authority do you rely on for guidance?

What motivates your leadership or management?

Who do you respect as a leader or manager?

What informs and motivates them?

To be continued…

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