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"He that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out" (John 10:2-3).

Follow the leader. It's a game so simple even the smallest child can play it. All you need is one person bold enough to march out front and a few others cooperative enough to follow behind. Right? Not really. But, sadly enough, that's the mistaken idea many believers have today. It's an idea that has hindered the growth of Christian businesses, ministries and the Church at large. And it's time we began to correct it. It's time we became the leaders God intended us to be.

At first glance, it might appear that we already have more than enough leaders. But the truth is, what we actually have is a surplus of people who think they're leaders but they aren't. We've all seen them: (and at one time or another could probably be numbered among them) Self-proclaimed leaders who are walking along with no one following them.

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but the very word leader implies that a person has the ability to obtain followers. It refers to someone who has been able to exercise enough influence over other people to convince them to go in a particular direction. The person who is marching ahead with no one behind him isn't leading-he's just taking a walk!

Another basic quality of leadership is the ability to organize those who are following in order to achieve a stated purpose or desired result. In other words, a real leader can mobilize people, meet goals and make things happen.

More Than a Title
Now, in the light of that information, I'd like you to ask yourself, "Am I a leader?" If you're born again, you're called to be one. That's right. At the most basic level, every member of the Body of Christ is divinely destined to lead others into the kingdom of God. We're all called to influence people for Jesus. Once we're faithful in that area, God will promote us to other positions of leadership. Generally, that's where the problems begin. That's because many people think once they've been given positions or titles of authority that the positions themselves make them leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It doesn't matter what the sign says on your office door, how skilled you are technically, how many college degrees you have, how much product knowledge or marketing savvy you've accumulated, you are a true leader only when you are following the example of the greatest leader of all time, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 10, Jesus compares His leadership style to that of a shepherd, saying: "He that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers...I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep" (Verses 2-5, 14-15).

Getting to Know You
The first thing I'd like you to notice about that passage of Scripture is the fact that Jesus said the sheep follow Him because they know Him and He knows them. What does it mean to know someone? It means to have a relationship with him. Therefore, according to Jesus, leadership is first and foremost a relational skill. The secular world stumbled on that fact themselves a few years ago. They thought they had really come up with a brilliant idea. (It's always funny to me to see the world discover some new principle that's been in the Bible for 2,000 years).

A recent Stanford University study of several thousand executives in the corporate and entrepreneurial world revealed that 85 percent of the success of those business people could be attributed not to their product knowledge, but to their skill in cultivating relationships with people.

That's a scriptural truth, and it works in ministries and churches just as surely as it works in the business world. No matter what your arena of authority, you cannot lead effectively unless you know the people you're leading and they know you!

Some might say that's impossible. After all, if an organization grows to hundreds or even thousands of people, the head of that organization could never get to know every one of them. So, what's the solution? Again, the corporate world has discovered what Jesus knew long ago, one person can personally administrate no more than 12 people.

So, in larger organizations, the top leader must cultivate a leadership group of 12 (or fewer) under him. Those leaders are, in turn, responsible for a similar group under them, and so on. Thus, no matter what level of leadership you hold, it's those people who are directly accountable to you that you, as a leader, need to know. That means you must spend time with them, not just giving them instructions, but talking to them, learning to understand their priorities and value systems, what motivates them and what doesn't, their strengths and their weaknesses.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, the Apostle Paul actually gives Christians a scriptural mandate to "know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (vv. 12-13). Notice the connection there between knowing and esteem. Esteem isn't something that just happens. It comes when people become familiar with the person they're serving and begin to trust him.

Be the Same Yesterday, Today And...
Of course, if those you're leading get to know you and discover you're not worthy of their trust, you'll have a problem. So it's vitally important that as leaders we conduct ourselves in a trustworthy manner. That means, for instance, being forthright with people. If someone does something that you don't like or that is contrary to your instructions, don't criticize him behind his back. Don't just block his raise or send him a notice of termination. Communicate frankly and directly.

Go to him personally and say, "Hey, you made a mistake. I know you didn't have a wrong motive. So let's talk about it and see if we can prevent that kind of thing from happening again." You can also elevate the trust factor by being consistent. The reason we can trust Jesus so implicitly is that He is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). You can't trust someone who is not consistent in his response to you.

The worst person in the world to work for is someone who is high one day and low the next in his relationships with people. It's the employer who is so erratic that his employees can't ever predict with any regularity how he is going to respond to them. They're reluctant to talk to their boss about anything, because they don't know if he is going to bite their heads off or be polite. Don't be that way. Give the people you lead reason to trust you by responding to them consistently and in love, day after day. Then step out and lead as Jesus did, not by barking orders from behind, but by walking before them and showing the way.

The Leadership Anointing
Look back at John 10 and you'll see what I mean. There Jesus says the shepherd "goeth before them, and the sheep follow him" (v. 4). He was showing us that an effective leader always steps forward and acts as an example for his followers. In my church, for instance, we set a goal each year and specify the number of confirmed salvations we want to see by the end of the year.

One year our goal was 35,000, and we exceeded that number considerably. But we wouldn't have if I had just told the congregation, "Now, you all go out and witness to people," then left it at that. No, the congregation had to see that goal incorporated into the lives of the pastoral staff. They had to see their leaders modeling those values and giving them an example to follow.

Here's a fact that will stand you in good stead as long as God entrusts you with leadership responsibility: If you're not seeing the character qualities, work ethics or values that you want to see in the people who work for you, it's because they're not seeing them in you. As a whole, the people you lead will be a mirror reflection of you. (I'm not talking about the folks who have only been with you for a few months or about isolated problem individuals. I'm referring to the overall trends you see recurring among those who have served you for a significant length of time.) You might assume that reflection is simply a natural result of their watching and learning from you.

There is, however, much more to it than that. The Bible clearly teaches that God equips those He calls. So if He elevates you to a position of responsibility, you can be assured He will also anoint you to impart direction to the people under your care. That's a supernatural principle, and you can see it operating at every level of leadership.

Take parenting, for example. God has equipped us as parents to supernaturally influence the direction of our children. And, much to our dismay, we usually find that the weaknesses we see in our children mirror the weaknesses in our own characters or personalities. That's why in the majority of cases, alcoholic parents produce alcoholic children. You'd think such children would be driven away from alcohol after seeing the devastation it brought forth in their parents' lives. But because of the supernatural anointing of leadership, they most often follow in the footsteps of their mother and father despite their hatred of the alcoholic lifestyle.

Once you, as a leader, understand that principle, you'll realize that if you want to correct a fault or weakness in the group you've been appointed and anointed to lead, that correction will have to begin with you.

Now, with all that said, let me ask you again: Are you a leader? You're called to be. And heaven knows the Body of Christ is in desperate need of more people who will answer that call. People who know that leadership isn't child's play. People who are willing to take the time to know, be known by, and earn the trust of, those who follow them. Now more than ever, God is searching for people who will walk in the steps of the Good Shepherd. He is wanting believers in every realm of life-in homes, in businesses, in churches and in communities-who will truly lead His sheep. You can be one of them. Will you?

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The online ministry of cfaith has been helping people discover faith, friends and freedom in the Word since 2000. Cfaith provides a unique and comprehensive collection of faith-building resources for the worldwide faith community.

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