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3 Leadership Principles That Are Hard To Swallow

by Josh Breland


These 3 leadership principles are hard to accept but inescapeable on the leadership journey.

1. Down is Up

In leadership, down is up. A real abiding humility is the only way for a leader to grow in wisdom and in favor with God and man (Matthew 23:12). If you want to lead your people with greater faithfulness and effectiveness, a posture of lowliness is what God requires. On the face, this seems backwards. Isn’t it the hard-charging, bold, my way or the highway type of leaders who get honored? Well, yes, the world does seem to reward this type of pride-centered leadership. But this never lasts, and ultimately, it is not God’s kind of leader. Leaders eat last, they die first, and just as Jesus, they are to serve and not be served (Matthew 20:28).

2. It’s not about you

It is human nature to wake up every day and wonder how you will take care of yourself. What will I do today? What will I eat? What are my goals? If you are a leader of people, you can quickly begin to create a plan of how those around you are going to help you be recognized as a great leader. But leadership isn’t about you.

Leadership is about loving others to the glory of God. It is about helping those around you grow in faithfulness and achieve their goals. A few years ago I was sitting around a table of church leaders. As we talked about what could have gone better at our event, it seemed every arrow of improvement was aimed squarely at me. The Lord quickly reminded me that church leadership is not about me, it’s about others. If I were to make every win and loss about me, I would fail to serve those around me. Leaders help those around them grow and achieve (Proverbs 11:14). It’s not about me. And if you are a leader, it’s not about you.

3. It’s all your fault

In leadership, it’s all your fault. Yeah, but I didn’t do that. That was not my choice. That may be true, but leaders are responsible for outcomes and this includes the failures of their people. A staff without joy may be the fruit of a lack of personal time with the Lord, but as a leader, you are responsible for taking care of your people and guiding them from places of un-health to places of health. A staff failing to meet deadlines may be a lack of personal discipline on their part, but the leader sets the standards, empowers, and holds the team accountable. A missed deadline is on the leader for failing to grow the team in personal discipline.

Don’t externalize the failures and dysfunctions of your team. If you are a leader, team failures and dysfunctions are your failures and dysfunctions. The Lord has graciously entrusted you to serve those under your leadership. Though it is hard to accept, and even harder to embrace, leaders know that it’s all their fault. They also know there is enough grace for every leadership journey.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Josh Breland

Josh Breland helps church leaders win with data and church analytics at Churchlytics. He previously led the communications team as Director of Communication & Strategic Initiatives at College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is married with three daughters. Connect with Josh on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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