John Piper has a very helpful but often overlooked article from 1995 called The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. I highly recommend it. Here are three things that stand out from the article.
First, Piper gives a very helpful definition of spiritual leadership, which differs in some ways from leadership in general:
I define spiritual leadership as knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power. The answer to where God wants people to be is in a spiritual condition and in a lifestyle that display his glory and honor his name. Therefore, the goal of spiritual leadership is that people come to know God and to glorify him in all that they do. Spiritual leadership is aimed not so much at directing people as it is at changing people. If we would be the kind of leaders we ought to be, we must make it our aim to develop persons rather than dictate plans. You can get people to do what you want, but if they don’t change in their heart you have not led them spiritually. You have not taken them to where God wants them to be.
Second, Piper spends the rest of the paper outlining the characteristics a person must have in order to be a spiritual leader “who excels both in the quality of his direction and the numbers of people who follow him.” He divides these characteristics into an inner circle and an outer circle:
The inner circle of spiritual leadership is that sequence of events in the human soul that must happen if anyone is to get to first base in spiritual leadership. These are the absolute bare essentials. They are things that all Christians must attain in some degree, and when they are attained with high fervor and deep conviction they very often lead one into strong leadership. In the outer circle are qualities that characterize both spiritual and non-spiritual leaders.
Third, and among other things, Piper has a great discussion of the outer circle characteristics. Below is the list of characteristics he discusses. I especially love the emphasis on optimism, energy, hard thinking, dreaming, and decisiveness.
- A hard thinker
- Able to teach
- A good judge of character
- Theologically oriented
- A dreamer
- Organized and efficient
- A lover