5 Traits of a Flourishing Leader

Some people have a green thumb and others don’t. Those that do can grow plants and flowers that seem to flourish with life, color, and vibrancy. Leaders also fall into two categories. Those who flourish and those who don’t. What are common traits of flourishing leaders? I believe what happened in the early church gives us clues to traits of a flourishing leader.

leadership ball with words

In Acts 1 Jesus had completed his mission on earth to die on the cross for our sins and then rise from the dead. 40 days after He rose he promised the Holy Spirit to his followers (Acts 1.8) and then ascended to heaven to co-rule with with His Father (Acts 1.9). Those first few verses point to traits of a flourishing leader.

What flourishing leaders do.

They take their role seriously. Jesus gave the great commission in Acts 1.8 to reach those without Christ. Flourishing leaders leverage their gifts to the max to help the church fulfill the great commission.

They lead with a sense of urgency. After Jesus ascended, two angels appeared and reminded those who watched Him ascend that He would return in the same way he came (vs 11). A flourishing leader will lead and act with a sense of urgency knowing that his or her time on earth is limited and that Jesus could return at any moment.

They seek to live in the Spirit’s power. Jesus promised the church that he would send the Holy Spirit (vs 8). And, the book of Acts chronicles the work of Christ through the Spirit in the early church. A flourishing leaders knows that he can’t lead in his own power. Rather, he will seek to submit his will daily to the work of the Spirit.

They deliberately seek to discover God’s will for their leadership. One of the first decisions the early church made was to discern God’s will about Judas’ replacement. They knew that the church needed godly leaders to lead it. A flourishing leader won’t seek to ask God’s blessing after he makes a leadership move. Rather, he will seek to discern God’s will and seek His direction before moving forward. He will use these four pillars when he seeks God’s will: Scripture, prayer/peace, common sense/circumstances, and wise counsel.

They direct their heart’s affection toward Jesus. In verse 24 Luke writes this just before they replaced Judas, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart.” The passion of their heart was focused on Jesus. Flourishing leaders will do the same. They will choose to set their affections not on success, a big church, or acclaim, but on pleasing Him.

Read Acts 1 today as a reminder of what God looks for in a flourishing leader.

Related posts:

A Millennial’s Search for Finding His Sweet Spot

I’ve been following one of the most influential leadership bloggers who is in his 20’s, Paul Sohn. He is an award-winning writer, speaker and executive coach. His new book, “Quarter-Life Calling: How to Find Your Sweet Spot In Your Twenties” is out today and I highly recommend it. I asked Paul to share a bit about his journey which he does here as a guest blogger.

Book Cover

So, what’s next? What are you going to do after graduation? Do you have any jobs lined up? Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up?

Those questions haunted me.

Whether it was friends, family members, professors, colleagues, every single time, I would give my impeccably rehearsed thirty-second elevator pitch. “Yes, my dream is to become the youngest Chief Human Resources Officer at a Fortune 500 company, and I’m doing everything in my power to reach my dream.”

Every day was a hustle. In college, I spent countless hours of studying, pulling all-nighters, working to reach that elusive 4.0 GPA. I excelled in extracurricular activities, creating new student clubs and leading student government. The rest of my hours revolved around perfecting my resume so I could land my dream job.

I was inching my way closer and closer to my ultimate dream.

Next came the big win. I secured an enviable internship and later landed a full-time job at the world’s largest aerospace company. I got to sit in important meetings with senior leaders and lead transformational company-wide initiatives. I was making over $75,000 a year at the age of twenty-six. I had one of the best health-care plans in the country, a matching 401(k) plan, and long-term job security.

In my new job, I was laser-focused on improving my performance. All my efforts went into developing myself professionally so that I could be a star player at work. I devoured management and leadership books, subscribed to the Wall Street Journal, and connected with reputable business leaders to learn about the latest business trends. I developed a detailed strategic plan for the next five, ten, and fifteen years of my life. I put a plaque in the wall of my bedroom with visuals inspiring me to become the youngest CHRO of a Fortune 500 company.

I had it all figured out.

Everything seemed perfect, except for one thing: I was actually miserable.

Of course, I never admitted this to anyone, even myself. How could I?

All my life, I had gone all-in with the hopes of reaching a dream, until my passion and determination started to fade. The harder I worked, the more I felt disconnected and disenchanted with my work. I felt like a mindless zombie, drowning in the currents of purposelessness. Every day felt like a daily grind. Work devolved into a monotonous set of thankless tasks. I wondered, “Where was my life leading?”

These frustrations led me to face some fundamentally inconvenient questions about my life:

  • Is this what all my hard work and planning amounted to?
  • Why am I here?
  • What’s my calling and purpose in life?
  • What is the true meaning of success?

Every day the feeling of being lost—of leaning on the wrong wall—tormented me. So I began searching for answers.

I turned to God and raised my white flag. One of my mentors recommended to me Os Guinness’s signature book on calling, The Call. The book changed my thinking and turned my life upside down, giving me a refreshing perspective on how to view life. All my life, success was measured by possessions and prestige. But The Call offered a radically different idea on life and success: meaning and purpose are gained by discovering and stewarding God’s calling in my life.

Ignited by a newly consuming passion, I started a journey to discover my calling. I spent the next few years reading dozens and dozens of books on this topic.

It wasn’t long until the direction of my life started to change. It was as if I were guided by a compass that pointed to a true north. Now, I was attempting to align every aspect of my life toward my calling. Every day, I was traveling closer and closer to the sweet spot where I was living intentionally toward my calling in life. I created a timetable and outlined all the activities in my life. I wrote down everything that occupied my time. I dissected each activity one by one and asked whether this relationship, activity, or engagement helped me grow closer to my calling or detracted me. Some of these decisions weren’t easy. I had to sever relationships that I had invested in for a long time. I had to stop habits of mine that were becoming more detrimental in pursuing my calling. I soon came up with dozens of items on a list that I had to either start or abandon to live with greater intentionality.

So after working four years at my job, I did craziest thing a twenty-eight-year-old could. I quit my Fortune 50, high-paying job with great benefits, without having another official job lined up.

Along my journey, I’ve realized something about other professionals my age. I’ve realized that I’m not alone, I’m not unusual, and I’m not even weird. Purpose and meaning is an issue that a lot of twentysomethings grapple with. As someone who has struggled with questions of purpose and meaning too, I believe my story will encourage you to live intentionally to your calling as a twentysomething who has chosen to be countercultural, to respond to God’s calling, and to live according to God’s rules instead of the world’s rules.

Paul writes at paulsohn.org and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Related posts:


How Much Time Should a Pastor Spend on Sermon Prep

How much time should we pastors spend preparing a sermon? Recently I watched a video where a famous pastor answered that question. His response, “I study and read all the time and it takes me about one to two hours to put a sermon together.” Yikes! When I heard that I felt guilty because there’s no way I can prepare a sermon that quickly. I’m sure this pastor’s heart was right, but I wish he had qualified himself more. I doubt very many of us are that speedy. Here are some thoughts on sermon prep time.

bible study

In Haddon Robinson’s book, Biblical Sermons, he wrote that experienced preachers he surveyed spent an average of 16 hours preparing. That sounds more like it to me. That’s probably my average and I’ve been preaching for 25 years. Thom Rainer has an interesting post here from a survey pastors took.

So, how much time should you spend? It depends.

It depends on…

  • how long you’ve been in ministry. If you been in ministry several years, you have a backlog of study material. If you haven’t you will probably need to set aside more study time. I did in my early ministry years.
  • how well you’ve catalogued your previous study notes, sermons, and materials.
  • how well you manage your time.
  • what’s happening around you…sometimes unexpected family and ministry demands arise that require our time that we otherwise would have spent on sermon prep. No need to wallow in guilt when that happens.
  • your personality…some pastors have the gift of gab and can ‘make up stuff on the fly’ :), some of us don’t; some personalities require the preacher to process what he wants to say more thoroughly.

Here are a few ideas to consider as you answer this question for yourself.

  • Schedule your study and prep time during your best, most alert hours.
  • Set reasonable expectations. An hour or two is too little time for most just as 35 hours is probably too much.
  • Use computer tools readily available. I own a Mac and use both Accordance and Logos. I rarely use paper books. These tools have made my study time more efficient.
  • Trust God to use your faithful preparation. Seldom do ministry demands allow us to study as much as we’d like. We must do our best and trust the Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps.

How much time do you spend preparing your sermon?

Related posts:


Are you an Anonymous Leader?

I love reading books on leadership. And recently, The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence by Ralph Mayhew, a pastor in Australia came across my desk. It is an excellent and convicting book about being a biblical leader, from a fresh angle. I asked Ralph to be my guest blogger today. His post gives you a glimpse into his book. I highly recommend it.

anony leader final

When it comes to leading people well, a leader can experience a lot of pressure. Every leader feels the weight of the role, and add to this the sometimes ruthless expectations of followers and it can sadly be enough to convince some out of the call entirely.

Leadership, however, is not about us, it’s about how God chooses to use the platform of His influence upon which we stand. Our ears should not be attuned to the expectations of our followers, but the expectations of the one who gave us the platform.

That platform belongs to God and is a gift God gives to every leader entrusting us to steward it in line with his will. The platform is different to the stage of leadership. The platform is where God’s business is conducted, as opposed to the stage where a leader seeks to pursue their ambition of becoming great and increasing their own influence.

Christian leadership has always meant to be about God’s agenda. As we read words like what John the Baptist said ‘He must become greater and I must become less.’ (Jn 3:30) we are beckoned into anonymity. It begins to dawn on us as Jesus washes His disciples feet, that occupying God’s platform of influence, does not require our greatness to be known, but God’s. Leading in the Kingdom of God requires us to become invisible, anonymous, transparent.

Transparency is a great metaphor for Christian leadership. If a leader is able to cast vision, create community, challenge culture, instill values, navigate change and inspire people, all by enabling people to look toward them and be caught in God’s influence, then they have fulfilled John the Baptist’s words.

The Anonymous Leader does this, powerfully influencing others as they align their influence to God’s. They realize that through their influence God’s influence is actually coming to bear on a person’s life. This kind of leader recognizes that leadership is never about them, but all about how they steward God’s platform, which they occupy.

As a leader relinquishes their personal ambitions and strives for anonymity, they truly can embrace the leadership platform God has gifted them with. In doing so the five components of leadership present in ever leader can be stewarded toward anonymity and Kingdom advancement, and away from selfish ambitious desires that lurk in the spirit of us all. Excellent self-leadership begins to see a leader’s passion migrate toward wisdom and away from recklessness. Their trust builds toward integrity and hypocrisy decreases. Their invincibility is ushered into and grounded in humility, leaving their pride to starve. Their confidence is nurtured into security, reducing the pull of insecurities. And their commitment is driven into a depth of resilience and away from shallowness.

The Anonymous Leader constantly strives for wisdom, integrity, humility, resilience and security to grow in their lives, knowing that those they lead and the Kingdom of God in which they lead, will be enriched and benefited because of it.

-Ralph Mayhew, author of The Anonymous Leader: An unambitious pursuit of influence; available at www.theanonymousleader.comHe also blogs atwww.ralphmayhew.com.

Related posts:


9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic

One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.” As a Pastor, I’d like to suggest two more for those in ministry. Two things a pastor can’t avoid: people being late to the Sunday service and…critics. I’ve served in full-time ministry for 35 years and I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. And I’ve learned 9 ways that have helped me respond better to the church critic.

Handle criticism text concept isolated over white background

9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic.

  1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
  2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
  3. Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but,” or “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
  4. Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
  5. Before responding take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abraham Lincoln used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
  6. Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism and act upon it accordingly.
  7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (see my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
  8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). However, you probably wouldn’t want to vacation with them. 🙂
  9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they criticized you made it easier to receive. For those who don’t criticize well, avoid their tactics.

What has helped you deal with the church critic?

Related posts: