7 Keys to Effective Leadership

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Here are seven keys or important competencies leaders must have.

(Adapted from The Leader’s Edge by Burt Nanus; Contemporary Books, 1989.)


1 Farsightedness

A strong leader’s mind operates in the future tense, always searching for opportunities and threats, always asking, “What if?” and “Why not?” and “So what?” He pays attention to the past and present to determine their implications for the future.  It means keeping the eye firmly fixed on the far horizon while taking steps toward it.

This competency gives the leader the perspective needed to form a vision, which is indispensable in:

(1) setting the direction,

(2) providing a guiding force for the present,

(3) thinking about the long-range consequences of present actions and choices,

(4) providing early notice of issues and opportunities that are worth exploring, and

(5) suggesting new options or reasons for changing direction.

How is this done?

(1) Become skilled in collecting informative date and facts.

(2) Interpret change by tracing cause-and-effect relationships as they play out over a period of time.

(3) Develop a mental model of cause-and-effect relationships built up over years of experience, training, reading and reflection.

(4) Develop the ability to evaluate current trends and possible developments for their long-term significance.

(5) Develop the creative, imaginative and intuitive processes that are essential for direction-setting.

2 Mastery of interdependence

The goal of this mastery is teamwork

(1) To promote a sense of community.

(2) To see people delivered from an excessive preoccupation with themselves.

(3) To guide the community into an intense desire to be of service to others.

You want the community to have the sense they are successful when others succeed and are oriented toward aiding others to perform effectively.

How to reach the goal:

(1) Leadership must inspire others to share ideas and flesh out commitment,

(2) The leader must communicate well and frequently, and

(3) He must also seek collaborative solutions to problems that will permit the group to grow, change and constantly improve. This is done through:

(a) Strong interpersonal relationships.

(b) Regular quality interaction.

(c) Building coalitions.

(d) Fostering participation in decision-making.

(e) Securing ownership of results.

(f) By personal example of shared concern, trust, and respect.

Observation:  Nothing is so energizing as a godly leader who is able to forge talented individuals into a team for which each is willing to do his very best for God and the greater good of others.

3 Anticipatory Learning

Every leader should be committed to being a lifelong learner. He should take every opportunity to gain new insights and understanding of how to increase growth and effectiveness.

The leader should have a strong commitment to promoting organizational learning as well. As the leader is only as strong as the people serving with him, and there must be a definite strategy for the growth of subordinate leaders as well.

Every leader should understand his own strengths and weaknesses, seek to improve where possible, and maximize learning from failures and successes.

He should also learn from efforts made to anticipate the future (contingency planning). To do so he makes personal observations, talks with colleagues, and studies critical commentary. He watches trends and indicators that suggest emerging problems and opportunities. He learns from his constituents in times of brainstorming and the sharing of ideas. He learns to determine what is important and sets the right priorities. He watches for early warning of future developments. He considers all his options to assist him in making the right decisions. 

4 High standards of integrity

Only he deserves to be a leader who every day justifies it!
— Dag Hammarskjold

There can be no trust unless the leader is trustworthy – dependable, reliable, honest and honorable.

Those who have undertaken leadership roles must see themselves as having undertaken a sacred trust.  Their vision and actions must at all times be ethical and, occasionally, ennobling. People will not follow a fraud, but they will forgive mistakes of those they believe to be honest, fair, and trustworthy.

5 Organizational design

Leaders forge and help to determine the context – what will the organization need to accomplish for the realization of an intended future?  Can the priorities needed best be realized through formal structures and rules or through a team approach?

They establish policy guidelines that include performance and standards.

They determine the setting and boundaries.

They design the structure and support system, which includes roles and relationships, preparing organizational flow charts, networks, and chains of authority. They also outline the communication strategy and flow.

They implement the plan. This includes putting together the right team or staff, providing for needed resources, following through on performance, evaluations, and altering goals and directions as needed.

6 Takes initiative

The leader is motivated, and takes the initiative. They don’t wait to be told, managed, or led.

The leader exercises decisiveness, determination and follow-through. He is concerned with:

(1) Opening new doors for the group or organization.

(2) Setting high standards for service; knowing at what level of satisfaction each member is.

(3) Differentiating the group or organization for the sake of revealing relevant uniqueness.

(4) Being sensitive to environmental signals, both within and without.

(5) Being curious and inquisitive, seeking constant knowledge, information and feedback.

(6) A serious concern for research.

(7) Knowing where to exert pressure in order to make things happen.

(8) The ability to separate the critical from the interesting. Prioritizes well.

(9) Taking on opportunities to move the group forward at the right time.

(10) Knows what and how much to delegate.

(11) Devoting a good deal of time to the developmental side of the organization.

(12) Rapidly and creatively adapting ideas that will make new things happen.

(13) The ability to entertain the unconventional (can think outside the box, or not afraid of it)

7 Mastery of change

The leader sees problems as dynamic situations that offer opportunities for progressive transformation or containment.

He properly guides the speed and direction of growth to be in balance with resources.

He develops the ability to solicit flexible responses.

He identifies people groups and their needs and promotes relevant services.

The leader knows that the future belongs to those in motion (nothing stagnant about him).

6 Things Good Leaders do

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In an effort to understand and get a picture of what a genuine leader looks like we will use the acronym LEADER to examine some things good leaders do.



People are more inclined to follow those who hear them and their ideas and opinions. Increased undermining in organizations and families takes place where this is lacking. Wise leaders realize they do not have to agree with everything they hear, but if they don’t take the time to genuinely listen others are not likely to agree with anything they want to do. Good leaders work on developing their listening skills.



New ideas, dreams and hopes for progress and advancement are very important in any organization. Developing and sharing their vision with others is a must if the vision is to be accepted and acted upon. Leaders provide the vision and they get others on board to help map out the way to see the vision become a reality.



Keeping an idea or thought to yourself that requires others’ assistance is a sure way to keep it from happening! Asking others to help or join you is a hallmark of leadership. Good leaders are not “loners.” Real leaders have a manner of asking for advice and asking for help that is hard to turn down because those who are being asked receive a sense of importance.



Wise leaders know when and how to delegate. Frustration may often arise when a person is given responsibility but little or no authority. Wise leaders delegate and empower people with responsibility and authority for the task(s). Good leaders are secure enough to overcome the “I can do it better” syndrome and wisely delegate in a way that encourages and develops others.



Leaders help other people to be successful. They are not held back by jealousy or thoughts of who is getting the credit. The leader’s focus is on seeing the vision happen and setting the tempo by their example.



Often times we will see leaders who appear to be gruff, domineering, and short tempered with people. Yet they are still able to get results. Why? Because they care for and respect people. It is like a football coach who is demanding and somewhat dictatorial in his coaching style and the players and team will battle for him all the way.


(Adapted from seminar materials by William Vermeulen)

How does a wise leader make godly decisions?

How does a wise leader make godly decisions?  Specifically, how does a wise Christian leader make godly decisions?


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A wise leader totally trusts in God

Proverbs 3:5-7 says

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Several principles regarding decision-making can be seen from this verse as well as from other   verses (Prov. 14:12; 18:12; 28:26; Jer. 17:9; James 4:13-16; Gal. 6:7-8; John 15:5):

  • God wants his people to be humble and to approach him humbly.

He wants us to realize that we must consider who we are before him and recognize what our abilities truly are.  Even when we think everything is right, trusting in our ways or methods will fail.

  • Keep priorities in sight.

Your primary priority is your relationship with God.

According to Dr. John Maxwell, your secondary priorities can be organized by determining:

(1) What is required?

(2) What gives the greatest return?

(3) What will be the reward?

Proverbs 4:26-27 tells us to

Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or to the left. Keep your foot from evil.

  1. A principle that can be derived from this is:

Pursue realistic courses or options, and pursue those paths that seem to be firm.

Don’t be distracted by wrong goals, motives, or pursuits.

        2. Some questions you can ask:

  •  Are my options realistic?
  • Are any of my options unrealistic?
  • Is my heart’s motive pure in this?
  • Will this choice further my relationship with the Lord or hinder it?
  • Which choice will give God the greater glory, if any?
  • Do any of my options violate Scripture?

The wise leader makes plans after seeking good counsel

Make your plans by seeking advice 

Read: Proverbs 9:8-9; 11:14; 15:22; 20:18; 24:6

  1. A principle here would be:
  • Look to those who can offer sound advice (biblical, with common sense, etc.) and give guidance, such as those who have gone through a similar experience and learned from it (Eccles. 5:1-7; 9:17-18).
  • However, as one pastor warned, do not make your decision on the basis of the experience of others!  It is absolutely impossible for you to know all the hidden variables that entered into their circumstances and decisions.  This is not meant to invalidate their counsel but to avoid the trap of assuming that other’s experiences are a suitable model for your decisions (2 Cor. 10:12; Eccles. 7:10).
  • The best advice, of course, is from the Lord. Seek him through prayer and ask for his guidance (Matt. 7:7-11; 21:21-22; John 14:14; 15:7; Phil. 4:6-7; Col. 3:17).

2.  Some questions you might ask:

  • What does God say from his Word about the question(s) at hand?
  • Who do I know that can offer straightforward advice?
  • What wise elders can I seek out who can make some wise suggestions or give insight?
  • Are there others who have gone through the same kind of experience or have had to make the same kind of decisions that might have “hindsight wisdom?”

A wise person listens to good counsel

The way of a foolish person is right in his own eyes, but a wise person listens to counsel. (Proverbs 12:15)

  1. Principle:  I am willing to consider the advice I have been given, and will listen intently, even when it goes against what I want.
  2. A few questions to consider:
  • Am I seeking the advice of others in order to find someone who will give me what I want to hear?
  • Am I listening intently to the advice of others and seriously considering what they have to offer?
  • Am I listening intently to the advice of Scripture and the Holy Spirit?
  • Am I willing to take risks or make changes if this is God’s will for my life?

A person with understanding keeps a straight course

A person who lacks judgment enjoys his foolishness, but one who is filled with understanding keeps a straight course (Proverbs 15:21).

  1. Principle: Bliss or feeling happy about something doesn’t make a decision right. Being a biblically wise person (seeking to think God’s thoughts after Him) will help me keep a good course of direction in a diligent manner. Wavering is a pleasure for the fool. 
  2. Some questions you could ask:
  • Do I find more comfort and security in not making decisions than in making one?
  • Am I seeking to think God’s thoughts about this matter?
  • Have I searched the Scriptures to see if there is anything that speaks to these issue(s)?

3.  It is wrong to have a mind that nearly always wavers back and forth, or is indecisive. This is especially true of a leader. Leaders who cannot make decisions are not leaders at all (Rom. 14:5; James 1:5-8; 5:12).

4.   James 3:17 gives you direction for making decisions. Notice how this verse can provide you with a seven-fold decision-making process;

  • Is the decision pure?
  • Does it separate me from sin and evil? Does it promote moral holiness?
  • Is the decision peaceable?
  • That is, does it promote peace?

This does not mean that just because you feel peaceful about the decision then it is a right decision. The emotion of peace can mean that you are relieved that you have found the means to shirk responsibility. It can mean that you have found a way to absolve you for doing something you did not want to do. It could mean that you are pleased you have decided to do something you wanted, but your conscience has been seared sufficiently enough to repel any conviction about a bad or sinful decision.

On the other hand, you should not make any decision if your conscience is troubled. Now this means that your conscience should be informed as much as possible from God’s Word. Sometimes your conscience is bothered because making a decision requires making an uncomfortable but needed change; or because it goes against the culture in which you were brought up.  If your conscience is bothered, then continue to look into the matter and seek as much information and counsel as you can before making a decision. As one pastor has said, “If this principle (of conscience) is violated, the end result is seldom a happy one…”  The old statement can be true, “If in doubt, don’t.”  (Eccles. 1:18; Rom. 14:13-23; 1 Cor. 8:7-13; 10:23-31)

  • Is it gentle (forbearing, considerate)?
  • Is it reasonable (willing to yield)?

Dr. Robert Stuart makes the following recommendation for trying to figure out the                                                  reasonableness of the matter:

(1) Divide a page into two sides and label one side “pros” and the other side “cons.”

(2) List all of the pros and cons as you can possibly think of.

(3) Go back and label all of the pros and cons with

“A” for critically important

“B” important

“C” not that important

(4) Put the list away and take time to pray for guidance and wisdom.

(5) Go back and change all of the “B’s” into either “A’s” or “C’s”

(6) Now throw all of your “C’s” away and consider only what you have left.

  • Is it full of mercy or compassion?
  • Is it something that will produce good fruit? Will you get a good return, is it of value or profitable (not necessarily in terms of monetary rewards)?
  • Is it without favoritism or prejudice?
  • Is it genuine, sincere or without hypocrisy?


A wise person realizes the Lord's plans ultimately prevail

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (16:33; 19:21).

  1. Principle:  No matter how hard I plan to do things, ultimately it is God’s Sovereign plan for my life that succeeds.

A wise leader will recognize God’s authority, presence, and power in everything. He will understand that only God can bless anything and everything at all (Psa. 37:4-5; Matt. 6:19-34; Jn. 8:31-36; 15:1-7; Phil. 4:6-7; Col. 3:17; James 1:5-8).

2. Some helpful questions:

  • Have I committed this decision to the Lord? (In other words, have I told Him that I will rest
  • in the knowledge that He is control ultimately, no matter what decision I make?)
  • Have I purposed in my heart not to worry, but rather to give thanks for the process and for the outcome?
  • Have I made the commitment to do what is right before the Lord?

3. There is great counsel and sound wisdom in God and His Word. Seeking His wisdom is understanding and great power for success (Proverbs 8:14).

  • The principle here is - Success is always linked to godly wisdom and good counsel. The person who plans well will win.