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Six Essential Characteristics of Leadership from a Biblical Perspective

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1


Leadership. We've all experienced it in some part of our lives whether we've exuded it ourselves, benefitted from it, or been chastised and corrected by it. We have an idea of how it should be exercised based upon how we've received it in past experiences. The downside to those experiences is that whatever that particular leadership model was, it may or may not have been the standard. What is the standard?

The prophet Isaiah in the eleventh chapter, the first five verses shares with us what I believe to be the essential characteristics of leadership from a Godly and biblical perspective:

"1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; 4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. 5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist."

These verses come on the demise of the Davidic Kingdom. God's people have tried to do things there way and have proved unsuccessful. Because of their disobedience, God has allowed the Babylonian Empire to invade and deport the people into foreign lands. Isaiah, being a chosen prophet of God, encourages the people with a prophetic declaration of the promised Messiah. Government leadership, as they knew it has failed.

A new everlasting administration, from the line of David, shall come forth and govern with all power to enforce justice, establish righteousness and admonish peace amongst God's people. This leader and leadership would come from none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is a real example of a leader and leadership. His character, compassion, competence, and commitment is unparalleled.

These scriptures by the prophet Isaiah gives us six essential leadership characteristics to glean upon about our Savior:

1. Leaders make other leaders - In verse one, Isaiah informs us that this leader would come from the stem of Jesse, and branches from "his roots will bear fruit." True leaders cultivate other leaders because they have an understanding that whatever the task may be, its accomplished through others with the same heart, mindset, and work ethic that churns an organization along. The gospel and the work of the ministry should extend throughout all time. It takes investing in other potential leaders to transpose this effort. 

2. Leaders understand the importance of faith - Isaiah starts verse two off with, "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him." Great leaders have an inner force (Holy Spirit) that drives their skills, abilities, knowledge, and understanding. When these attributes are rooted in self and others, they typically yield disastrous results. However, when those attributes rest on the power and strength of the Lord, great and mighty things are accomplished for His glory and God's people because he equips us with the true wisdom, counsel, and knowledge needed. 

3. Leaders show reverence - Verse three admonishes us that reverence begets wisdom that reproduces discernment and foresight. There is a saying, "To whom much is given, much is required." Being a leader should give one greater respect and adoration for those who share similar or esteemed roles. So we learn to honor and respect them. The bible declares in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The wisdom God gives us illuminates discernment and foresight to see what others cannot see. When we revere our Savior, he will give us the right people, with the right motives, to accomplish the right mission. 

4. Leaders stand up for the marginalized - Isaiah, in the first part of verse four, illustrates how humility as a leader will allow us to show compassion and empathy to others facing difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, we live in a society where many have the "dog eat dog" mentality — every man for him or her self. True godly leaders understand that it does not always take ruling with an iron fist but having care for those in a lower or lesser position. Godly leaders have a responsibility to take a stand for those who cannot fight for themselves. Whether it be through prayer or petition, it is vitally important to demonstrate the heart and compassion of Jesus to all who are mistreated.

5. Leaders voices should carry authority - Isaiah exhorts in this second clause, the power and authority of the "mouthpiece" of God. "He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth" and "with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked." A godly leader that speaks understands that his voice and speech are governed and controlled by the Holy Spirit. He or she may be used to encourage, admonish, or rebuke the actions of another's life. This responsibility should not be taken lightly and should manifest itself in a godly leader who is consistently reading and studying the word of God. God's word communicated carefully is the final authority for humanity and has the power to change the course of one's life. 

6. Leaders allow God to keep them centered and balanced - In this last verse, Isaiah uses the belt to illustrate what holds it all together - righteousness and faithfulness. Having a righteous mind allows a leader to concentrate on what matters the most in life and be able to lead effectively. Being faithful in our calling or gifting allows the Holy Spirit to use us and not only hold ourselves together but others as well. A godly leader whose mind is focused on God and consistent in their behaviors, attitudes, and actions can be used to accomplish great feats for God and humanity.

May we all desire to garner and exude these six essential characteristics in our lives as we continue to lead God's people. Whether we are behind a pulpit or standing in a boardroom, we can lead as Christ has himself.

Dr. Stephone A. Berry is an Associate Minister at Christian Faith Fellowship in Columbia, South Carolina. He graduated with a Master of Divinity in Ministry Studies from Columbia International University along with an earned Doctorate in Ministerial Leadership.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

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