Positive Leadership: Courageous and Compassionate

Courageous Leadership

A fearful leader is not a leader. I’m not saying a leader never fears. Of course he does. I wouldn’t follow anyone who never felt afraid. Such a man is not brave but a fool. When I say “a fearful leader is not a leader,” I’m describing someone who is characterized by fear, overwhelmed with fear, never gets past fear, is dominated by fear, and makes decisions based on fear.

A positive leader is someone who fears but doesn’t stop there, paralyzed and useless. Rather, he takes his fear to the Lord, confesses it, seeks courage to overcome it and to act bravely.

Animals can smell fear. But so can humans! People will be able to tell when cowardice is dominating and directing your decisions, words and actions. They will smell the fear behind your favoritism, excuses, and waffle. They will lose respect for you, stop following you, and even start intimidating you. That’s why I said, “A fearful leader is not a leader.” No one is following him, regardless of his title.

If we focus on pastoral ministry, courageous leadership is demonstrated in evangelism, in preaching the whole counsel of God, in dealing with discipline cases without prejudice, in reforming the church, and in taking unpopular stands against sin in the church and in the world.

Compassionate Leadership

This vision of positive leadership may have built up a caricature in your mind of a person who is self-assured, self-confident, and maybe a bit self-centered. However, I want to demolish that by emphasizing lastly that a positive leader is a caring and compassionate person. He is not self-centered but other-centered.

Speaking of pastors in particular, I’ve seen people try to lead congregations through preaching alone; leading from the pulpit. Others have tried to lead through being effective administrators; leading from the computer, you might say. Still others have tried to lead through their growing international reputation; leading a local congregation through non-local accomplishment.  And then of course there are the dictators; leading through tyrannical abuse of power.

However, none of these work long-term. A positive leader is out among his people, present with them, caring for them, and providing for them. And that’s not just when illness, bereavement, or problems arise; that would be reactive leadership. No, positive leadership means getting out in front of the problems and trials, getting to know people in the calm, not just appearing in the storm. It’s building relationships over years so that trust and credibility is present when the real difficulties do arise. The positive leader is not just waiting for trouble, he’s positively investing in lives and families over the long-term.

Previous posts in the Positive Leadership series:

  1. Cheerful leadership
  2. Climbing Leadership
  3. Confident Leadership
  4. Clear Leadership
  5. Communicative Leadership

Check out

The Bible is about Jesus
Matt Emerson: “The entire Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is about Jesus Christ. Let me give a few reasons why I believe that is the case, as well as a few clarifications about what that means.”

Digital Distraction in the Classroom
Stephanie Chasteen addresses the problem of distracting laptops and cellphones in lectures. Her solution? A social contract drawn up and enforced by the students themselves. Worth a try?

College is dead. Long live college!
Which Seminary is going to bite the bullet first? (HT: Alex Chediak)

3 Things they don’t teach you in school that we all pay dearly for
100% agree with Matt Perman on this. And here’s another post of his along the same lines: 3 Things about knowledge work they never told you in school.

The Problem with Misinterpreting Wisdom Literature
“Interpreting the proverbs as promises is a critical mistake that can fuel legalism, moralism, and disillusionment. Once again, we see the importance of knowing how to interpret the different genres of Scripture and the heartache that comes from a misguided interpretation.”

Putting in a good word for Presbyterianism
Kevin DeYoung with a rare foray into ecclesiology.

Children’s BIble Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.


Positive Leadership: Clarity and Communication

Positive Leadership is (1) Cheerful, (2) Climbing, and (3) Confident. It’s also (4) Clear and (5) Communicative.

Clear Leadership

The positive leader has clear principles and convictions that He will not compromise. Yes, there are secondary issues and debateable questions, but there are also non-negotiables. The positive leader does not hide these things or waffle when asked about them. People who have known him for a while know where he stands on the most important questions.

He also has clear language. He states His understanding of God’s word with as clear language as he can. He strives to use language that is as simple as possible without sacrificing accuracy. He uses short rather than long sentences; short words rather than long words; concrete rather than abstract terms; illustrations rather than philosophical terms. His motto is “Brevity + Simplicity = Clarity.”

Clear principles and clear language are impossible without a clear conscience. This was something Paul strove for constantly (Acts 24:16). Whenever I hear someone waffling or prevaricating on whether something is right or wrong, or whether something is true or false, I immediately wonder about the person’s conscience. Is there some compromise in that person’s life that’s making it difficult for them to explain their position without their conscience protesting.

The leader also communicates positive energy by having a clear vision. He doesn’t need a vision statement, but everyone can state his vision. They know what he is trying to accomplish, where he is taking people, and why.

Why not ask people to state in one sentence, “What do you think am I all about?” or “What do you think I’m trying to accomplish?”

Communicative Leadership

Weak, negative, fearful leaders hear the phrase “Knowledge is power” and think, “Yes, the more I know and the less they know, the more powerful I’ll be.” The positive leader hears “Knowledge is power” and thinks, “How can I empower people by sharing knowledge with them.”

I’m still amazed at the way some pastors and elders try to keep people from knowing what’s going on in the church. Of course there are some things that should not be shared, but the default should always be share, inform, communicate.

So much trouble results in churches when elders and pastors try to starve people of information, when there’s a “We know what’s best for you” kind of attitude.

It’s almost impossible to keep people from knowing things today. So what’s the point in trying? They only get suspicious and then feel angry and distrusted when the information does eventually get out to them. Then you are on the back foot trying to explain and defend yourself.

The positive leader gets on the front foot and defaults to communicate rather than conceal.

Check out

The man behind Monergism
If, like myself, you’ve benefitted greatly from the resources at Monergism, you” enjoy this interview with the site’s founder, John Hendryx.

Predators on Pedestals
Bill Keller identifies parallels in the US’s Jerry Sandusky case and the UK’s Jimmy Saville case. Sadly it’s a common pattern that continues to be repeated in institutions and, yes, even churches.

I’m not busy!
I’m not looking for more work, but I can echo Tim’s thoughts here.

Jack’s ALS Journey: Canadian Thanksgiving Day
R C Sproul Jr.’s blogs are helping this family to suffer to the glory of God, and they in turn are helping many more.

Why should you go to a prayer meeting?
Erik gives six reasons.

Teens want parents to ask
Yes, apparently they want to be asked the tough questions about where were they and what did they do!

Learning leadership in the Scottish Mountains

Climbing Leadership

In Scotland, there’s a hobby called “Munro-bagging,” A Munro is a mountain that is over 3000 feet high and “Munro-baggers spend their leisure time “bagging” (climbing) these Munros. They plan, organize, train, buy supplies, enlist friends, rise early, drive many hours, and then they climb…and climb…and climb. After bagging their first Munro, most usually aim for 10, then 100, then 200, until, after many years, all 283 peaks are conquered. And all this while the rest of us are enjoying our Saturday morning sleep-ins.

Positive Christian leaders are Munro-baggers rather than sleep-ins. They are not content with the comfortable status quo nor with managing gradual decline. They are looking out for, planning, or taking on the next Munro.

Helping others climb
I’m not talking here of personal ambition or careerism. No, this Munro-bagger’s passion is to help others climb higher, grow stronger, move onward, upward, outward, etc. in their Christian faith and life.

He doesn’t want to leave people where they were when He found them. He wants to help them “bag some Munros.” He can look back on a congregation’s past achievements and attainments with pleasure, but he doesn’t rest on that. He’s looking for new challenges, new “Munros” to climb with his people.

Moral and spiritual summits
He looks at each individual and family, as well as the whole congregation, and asks how he can help them to progress, grow, and mature. What aspects of a person’s character could be developed? What areas of a family’s life could be improved? What service opportunities can be provided for this person? What unexplored area of Scripture should be studied? What outreach or mission can we attempt? What relationships can be strengthened?

Isn’t that the spirit of Christ’s leadership? And the apostles?

And it’s not just pastors who can do this. Young people and women can do this too to some degree in their own spheres of responsibility.

What spiritual Munros are you planning to bag? For yourself? Your family? Your congregation? Your friends?

Confident Leadership

I once attended a mountain-climbing church camp in the Scottish Highlands where we were trying to bag a number of Munros.

On the second day, we set out on a fairly ambitious trek. About halfway through, the mist and rain enveloped us, separating us into small detached groups going in different directions, and very soon all of us were lost.

At one point, a bedraggled handful of us us decided that the way back to base was over a particular mountain. We started climbing, but when we got about half-way up we could hardly see in front of our noses and decided to re-trace our steps. On the way down, we were relieved to meet our camp leaders on the way up the mountain.

“Oh!” we said, “So we were heading in the right direction after all?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Commandant, “We were just following you. You seemed to know where you were going.”

Lost confidence
Needless to say, we immediately lost any remaining confidence in our leaders, and spent the rest of the week, which was filled with similar disasters, doubting, second-guessing, and double-checking all our leaders’ plans. It was not enjoyable.

A positive leader has to convey a certain degree of confidence. He knows where he’s going, how he’s going to get there, and what he’s going to do when he arrives. Without this, who’s going to be inspired to follow his direction and instruction?

This is not about self-confidence, a confidence in personal abilities, but a confidence founded in the sovereignty of God and the promises of His Word.

Demonstrating confidence
We can build people’s confidence by demonstrating a high degree of consistent competence in our calling (in administration, communication, organization, etc), by living a holy life, and by developing a reliable steady witness. But we especially build confidence by how we react in times of crisis.

When a respected elder falls into immorality and apostatizes, the positive leader doesn’t panic, throw in the towel, and wonder out loud, “Where’s God?” No, while grieving over the sin, and the shame brought upon the church, He expresses confidence in God and His providence. He will say with the apostles, “They went out from us, because they were not of us….There must also be heresies among us so that they who are of God will be approved.” He demonstrates His calm faith in Christ’s promise: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

When a little child dies of cancer, of course he sympathizes and weeps with those who weep, but He also directs the distressed mourners to the sovereign, good, and wise character of God, to the sufferings of Christ, and to the sure hope of eternal life. He doesn’t fall to pieces and misrepresent God as helpless, clueless, and loveless.

Doubting, hesitating, prevaricating leaders will replicate themselves in others. But a confident leader inspires confident people, their confidence not being in the leader, but in the One who leads the leader.

See Part 1 of “Positive Leadership”: Cheerful Leadership