Two types of leadership

Two types of leadership December 7, 2012

Many people say that leadership is simply a case of having followers. But it seems to me that there are definitely two types of follower, and hence two types of leader. I am talking about Christian circles here, but I think that a similar point could be made in the wider world too.

The first kind of follower is one who simply reads, listens to, or watches another, and is affected by them.  Sometimes the changes produced will be profound and deep, even life-changing, other times the effects will appear deceptively superficial.  The reality is that we are the product of thousands of small moments where we say “aha!” We read a blog and it makes us think. Thats leadership. We listen to a sermon and the truth comes alive. Thats leadership.  We recently heard a testimony at Jubilee in which someone said that they had probably listened to the gospel 10,000 times but when Dr Kenneth Ulmer preached it again for us they understood it for the first time!  This person’s life was demonstrably changed by a single sermon, although of course the previous ones must have played some preparatory role. I think probably the best word for this kind of leadership is simply: INFLUENCE.

Thus, I would argue that this role of a preacher, blogger, or author, is an important one. It is highly influential on others. There have always been such people in the wider Church who’s influence is broad. And yet, such a form of leadership could be argued to lack depth. Your internet preacher is not your pastor. The blogger you correspond with does not know what is going on in your home life. The writer you read could be dead and their book could still transform your life, but it is a relationship with a book not a person.

I do believe that it is healthy to allow multiple influencers to affect you. I also believe that we must be careful in filtering the things we read or hear. You don’t have to read many blogs before you discover that even friends like myself and Frank Viola can and do disagree profoundly sometimes.  If you simply lay yourself open to all the influences in the global Church today without carefully considering what you are going to adopt, and what you are going to sift out you will be very confused! Also, if you are rely on the internet to fulfill all your fellowship and teaching needs your Christianity will be fatally flawed.  The Internet cannot make disciples, and that was Jesus primary mission for the church. Influencers as I have been speaking about can and do support disciple-making. But to become a disciple of Jesus you need someone in your life who leads you at a far more profound level than spending a coffee break reading a blog like this one.

There is then of course a second type of leadership, and once again it is demonstrated by the type of follower the leader attracts. A follower in this case is really a disciple of their leader. They place themselves under that leaders direction. They join the leaders church or group of churches. They become part of their organization. This leadership is really a position of leadership. It is what a pastor or denominational leader holds. It is a form of leadership that is outworked through relationships.  We call this type of leadership AUTHORITY.  Whilst influence can have great breadth, this form of “in your face” local leadership can have great depth.

There is no substitute for becoming a member of a local church and placing yourself firmly under the authority of another. As you follow a leader as they are also following Christ you will grow in your Christian walk. There are of course limits to such a form of leadership, and abuses have sadly occurred with all too regular frequency. We are not called to be mindless drones. And we are not called to follow our pastors away from the Bible!  Allowing yourself to be influenced by those outside your local church can help act as a check and balance, or a calibration of the influences you are placing yourself under at home. Listening to others outside your stream can help you understand your own stream better.  Sometimes it is possible to maintain your connection to a local church whilst you disagree about certain doctrinal or practical issues. But there are limits to that of course.  In a local church people who agree on at least primary and most secondary issues agree together to be a community of Christ under the leadership of elders.

What kind of leader are you? Are you an influencer? Or are you a positional leader with authority? Be content with what God has made you without longing to be the opposite! Of course there is an overlap. You better hope that if you have a position of leadership you can also influence. I know that I am much stronger on the influence side. What limited authority I do exercise in my local church is delegated authority, that I hold only as part of the core leadership team of the church.  I am not an elder or pastor. I am not paid by the church. These days I do not actually direct any individual ministry or group in the church. Instead I function by what I do from the front on a Sunday morning meeting (a form of influence in our own congregation), by being part of various meetings behind the scenes and pointing out what I see…a form of “minister without portfolio,” and in speaking with individual church members.  But I am so glad that I am not just another rootless influencer of the body of Christ who has no church home.  My roots at Jubilee ground me, and everything I do on this blog comes under the authority of my pastor Tope Koleoso and the other elders (especially my dear friend Dave Pask).  I worry about anyone who exercises any form of broader ministry without such deep oversight at the home base.

Pastors, you are competing with thousands of other influencers for the attention and followership of your flocks. Its no good these days to tell them to ignore these voices, you have to make sure that your own voice, supported by your authority, is powerful enough to form a foundation in the lives of your people that will help them sift the other influences. If you are someone with broad influence you better hope you have a church home somewhere you can grow in being both under authority and exercising authority.  I do believe that all leaders should exercise at least some authority and at least some influence.  But every leader will be predominantly either an influencer or a director.  Which are you?



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  • Funny. I’m working on something about leadership right now. I discovered that on amazon there are over 90,000 search results for “leadership”. That tells me that nobody really understands it completely! I also just had a brief discussion about the topic of authority when it comes to church membership. A friend of mine had been in a situation where she was basically told that she should join a church in order to become under authority of the church. In the text of the sermon she was given to prove this, it was all manipulation and fear-based, and it seemed to come from the point of view of the person who wants to control other people. This is a very different approach than what I am hearing in the membership info class I’m currently going to at my church.

    • Authority in the church should only ever be used to build up not to oppress!

  • Thank you for this deceptively simple post… I’m a bit jaded with a lot of the “leadership” stuff that is the flavour of the moment – but this actually gets to the nub of things really effectively and points up exactly the dilemma I am facing in terms of my leadership style at present. In the macho culture I work in “authority” is the order of the day, and whilst I can and have exercised authority in some circumstances there are others where I haven’t exercised it so definitively, and I am not sure whether that is because I have been trying to be counter-cultural in offering a more “influence” style of leadership (which is at times seen as weak) or simply out of wariness (or indeed weariness). Thanks… the post hasn’t answered my questions, but it has given me a helpful perspective.

    • Thanks! I think it’s important to realize neither of these leadership styles are right or wrong. But each of them are needed in different situations.

  • A. Amos Love

    Adrian – Anyone…

    I was wondering…
    Where are you with the use of the word “leader” for a“Disciple of Christ?” 😉

    Jesus always took and recommended the **low place.** Yes?
    The word “leader” seems like a “high place.” Yes?

    Seems Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders” for **His Body.** “ONE”

    Jesus, as man, humbled Himself, made himself of NO reputation,
    and took on the form of a **Servant.** Php 2:7-8. 😉

    Haven’t you ever wondered why?
    Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leaders?”
    For you have “ONE” leader – the Christ? Mat 23:10 NASB – And NONE did… 😉

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do not be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    The Message – Mat 23:10-12.
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only “ONE” Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **their shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    I’m Blest…
    I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  • A. Amos Love

    Adrian – Anyone…

    Don’t know if you ever checked or NOT – BUT…
    Jesus instructed **His disciples** NOT to be called **leaders** and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    In the Bible **His Disciples** all called themselves **Servants.**
    NOT one of His Disciples called themselves – “Leaders.” None? None.
    NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple – “Leader.” None? None.
    NOT one of His Disciples called themselves – “ Servant-Leader.”

    If Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders”
    and someone calls them self a “leader” or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they one of “His Disciples?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? 😉

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • Silverdire

      I have just come across this article from Adrian almost a year after published but I’m so glad I read your comment A. Amos Love. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who think that way. It seems in our Christian culture there is a such infatuation about leadership and we can see the fruits of it in the abuses of authority fleecing the sheep not only of finance but also of their minds.

      There’ll always be of course the risk of being led astray, be by self or with so called leadership or not. But it is a good point mentioning from scripture that the ones who knew, always wanted to take the servant position or entitlement rather than “leadership”. The leader and the leadership must come from Jesus Himself, the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek.

      We are supposed to learn in the world to be controlled and live by faith rather than having others to control us Christians. We are supposed to be free and submitted to Christ who said “I am life” and reveal Himself by His Spirit in and, out of the world! Anybody in the body of Christ can be an overseer. JESUS will bring him about if those in the know discern, rather than man appointed ones. That is how we find ourselves with the wrong people “leaders” doing the non appointed thing mentioned in the article above. The Church does not live by faith enough to self cleansing.

      I have now come to wonder about the necessity of so called local church. In this day and age I tend to think that the small home groups are more relevant to discipleship than the so called big organised “local church” if they’re not themselves plagued with this one head lording at the top. Let everyone make his mind about the things of the Lord. Even God give that freedom to mankind.

      There must be room for individual cogitation and debate and none should trust themselves to have power of/for the final understanding. Give time and a chance in love for the student to graze his knees that he may learn. Is Jesus in control? Let’s live by faith if we still understand what it means. That is exactly what Jesus did with his disciples, Peter being the classic one. That does not deny the need for teachers, even bloggers but let Jesus be the Master rather than knuckle the latest theological interpretation into the minds of people. It is because we have leaders that we have followers rather than followers because of leaders. Don’t let yourself nor others call you leader, nor Rabbi… Mat 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

      But I tend to think that the main driver for the falling into that age old leadership syndrome is the lust for power, money i.e tithes, donations and all that one would want to call it. The perfect example would be of course the Catholic Church of the middle ages…. There is in reality a complete reformation of the Christian culture needed rather than constantly using band aids to try to cure the problem. I find that the concept of Adrian Warnock on the subject is exactly that Band-Aid option. Basically, chew the cud rather than going for fresh grass. Unfortunately, Jesus will have to come again first because I doubt that as a Christian body we’ll be able to find the right appetite or faith hunger for it.

      Much more could be mentioned but perhaps the best thing as you do, is for us to be aware of it. We have as a church body lives according to the ways of the world. No wonder we are missing the power available to us to minister to the world. Rather we have now the world more assuredly doing away with the hope in Christ.

  • samantha jayne

    Hey Adrian,

    I absolutely agree with the points that is written for Leadership. Many discussions of leadership confuse personality, important objectives, formal position and specific behaviors with acts of leadership. It may involve certain characteristics, but leadership is not confined to these characteristics; rather, it’s all about influencing others in a substantial way.