Principles of Christian Leadership

Admittedly, when the subject of leadership is broached, one thinks of John Maxwell among others. However, for this weekly I focus on a former general conference president and experienced leader of many years, Juan Paulsen.
In his recent book since retirement, entitled, Where Are We Going? Paulsen lists seven principles and/or characteristics of Christian leadership which I have found most beneficial and applicable, and as such, I share them with you. These characteristics of leadership were shared in a presentation to elders in the North Bahamas Conference.

Paulsen argues that a good leader is one who is transparent “and as open and honest … about [his] motives, for this defines integrity, which is at the heart of leadership.” Essentially, he notes that it is important for one to ascertain what drives him or her to take a particular stand, “thus saith the Lord,” or is one motivated simply by a desire not to rock the boat.

Nothing to Prove
Paulsen explains, “You are in charge as long as you don’t have to prove it.” In other words, if one has to say that he or she is in charge, it is likely that he or she is not. Ellen White observes, “Men whom the Lord calls to important positions in His work are to cultivate a humble dependence upon Him.” TC vol. 9, p. 270

Know One’s Community

Good leaders are able to read “the pulse” of the community they have been asked to lead.” They are aware of the needs, hurts and hopes of their people. Accordingly, it is important for leaders “ to pay attention to what others are saying than it is for them to speak.” It is so important that they know of and how to assess official positions and statements of the church. They also recognize that members are volunteers and do not have an obligation to be present but have chosen to be involved because of their commitment to Christ.

Says Paulsen, “I have learned that the most significant ingredient of successful leadership in our church is the humility to let God’s Spirit lead.” Concerning this Ellen White says that a leader should listen to those “who have been long in the work, and who have gained deep experience in the ways of the Lord.” TM, pg 501

Ability to Handle Change
“There is nothing more calculated than disturbing the equilibrium of a group than the possibility of change,” argues Paulsen. So often we look back and say what used to happen and how things were done. However, “what we did then, was good at that time. That was how God led us.” But we must now ask, “Is this still the best way to do it now, and would it be so tomorrow? Or is God trying to help us see better ways to do mission and to keep the Church together?” opined Paulsen.

Realize They Are Not Always Right
Mature leadership values input from others and is open to new and different ways of thinking. The truth be told is that “Adventist leaders don’t always have to be right,” stated Paulsen, “but they do have a sacred responsibility to stay close as they know how to the inspired message of the Lord – the Bible and the writings of Ellen White.”

It is no secret that God has not called leaders to success but to faithfulness. Paulsen notes that there is “no criteria more important in an Adventist leader than humility and faithfulness. Nothing – education, professional skills, speaking skills, ‘pedigree,’ or anything else – will compensate for the lack of these two. Furthermore, he explains that when we in humility submit to the trust and choice of those who have elected us, we vow to remain faithful to God, to his church and his word.

While I have shared these with elders in training to be certified, I have found it most appropriate to share these qualities with all leaders in our union; and therefore, one can appreciate why I bypass leadership guru John Maxwell.