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The cardiac test for biblical leadership

June 2015
By: Tom Lothamer

Volumes have been written regarding the character traits that a leader must possess in order to successfully lead a team. Here's a sampling of quotes from some well-known names: 

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." Ronald Reagan

"Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them." John C. Maxwell

"I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself." Robert E. Lee

"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." Rosalynn Carter

"In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Max De Pree

"Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way." Ronald Reagan

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Success at the highest level comes down to one question: 'Can you make the choice that your happiness can come from someone else's success?' No one has qualities like courage, vision, charisma, adaptability, and decisiveness in equal measure. But every great leader does make the same decision--and so can you." Jeff Haden

“Inspiring trust is critical. People are not willing to recognize someone as their leader unless they trust them, not just intellectually, but ethically and morally as well. Likewise, people won't follow someone unless they're convinced that person knows where they're going.” Ray Silverstein

These are good ideas, but may I suggest that there are some more foundational traits a leader must possess in order to properly and successfully lead a team to success. In the Bible we find something that seems counter-intuitive, but is true nonetheless: Truly great leadership comes out of a heart of humility. And we have none other than the example of Christ to bear that out, as seen in Philippians 2:1-8.


• Balances sensitivity with responsibility (Acts 6:1-7; 2 Kings 6:1-7)

• Has earned the confidence of others through integrity (Matthew 5:33-37; also consider the life of David before, during, and after his sin with Bathsheba - 2 Samuel 11-12.) 

• Facilitates development in others through being a servant (John 13:1-17; Phil. 2:1-8)

• Takes more than his share of the blame and less than his share of the credit (see the greetings and closings of Paul's epistles; John 3:22-36)   

• Keeps hope alive in others (Dt. 31:6; Josh. 1:1-9; Solomon and the dedication of the Temple; 1 Peter) 

Considering these qualities, evaluate each of the following biblical leaders. Where did they fail in their God-given assignment, and why? What character traits did they exhibit that made them successful in leadership and ministry? 

Solomon – Saul – Hezekiah – Eli – Aaron – John Mark – Josiah – Paul – Abraham – Rahab

Let me add one other necessary quality to the list: 

• A leader is someone who is willing to learn from those who won’t. 

In summary, the character traits necessary to true spiritual leadership are humility, a servant spirit, compassion, mercy, confidence, and vision. How are you doing?

Tom Lothamer is president of Life Matters Worldwide. He can be reached by email or phone: 1-800-968-6086, (616) 257-6800.

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