To gain the follower's trust is an essential requirement for leadership."
Elders are responsible for the church's progress. In theory, they are the church members most prepared to move the church forward. However, reality shows that the lack of preparation in many of these leaders is greater than expected, especially in day-to-day situations.
Often, local church elders are admired or hated according to the manner by which they relate, communicate instruction, demand progress in the church's day-to-day activities, sanction rules, or deal with high-pressure situations.
Church members expect elders to be capable and prepared to lead the church, to set the tone of discussions, and to guide the rhythm needed for the development of the entire church or a specific department. Many hope that the elected leadership will be able to provide ways to solve all problems and challenges. But in reality, many elders are far from this desired objective. Today we face a serious crises in leadership.
Throughout the years, several researchers have focused on the subject of "leadership," seeking to evaluate this phenomenon and relate characteristics and abilities present in those people who stand out as leaders. These studies differentiate behavioral styles, value situational aspects, and point out different variables that may interfere with this process. Research shows that the leader's admirable characteristics honesty, competence, vision, and inspiriation head the list of attributes possessed by most successful people. All of these attributes may be summed up in one single word: credibility.
What people most expect from a leader is that he or she creates trust and earns credit by demonstrating coherent action and consistent ideas. It is not the command that works but the leader's example and ability to communicate the vision, the mission, and the challenge of new conquests. Through personal example, leaders demonstrate that they are capable of getting others to follow. Leaders must gain their followers' trust. Therefore, their actions and professed beliefs must be congruent. To have credibility, leaders need to live according to their values, be coherent and consistent, and do what they say they will do. Then they will be trusted.
Credibility is a relationship built between leaders and followers, and clear, transparent communication is fundamental.
One can have credibility only when what is said and what is done are in agreement. Unfortunately, too many would-be leaders do the opposite of what they say they will do. For too many in leadership, the old saying still applies: "Do as I say, not as I do."
Beautiful words are easily spoken, but in too many cases, the difference between speech and practice is so evident that observers end up ridiculing the speaker. Words have power, but there is more power in example, and people notice this difference. Worse, when such a situation occurs, leaders lose the informal support of those they are supposed to be leading.
This lack of credibility in modern leadership may be the primary reason that more and more people ask: "Why aren't there more leaders? Why do people resist answering the call of their leaders?"
Popular notions in many people's minds transform leaders into mythical figures, people who, due to their courage, give up everything to attract followers. Others think of leaders as visionaries with magical powers. Another popular notion views leaders as "charismatic," possessing special gifts. Another myth associates leaders with superior positions that cannot be questioned, isolating the leaders at the top of an organization.
Tradition tries to make us believe that elaboration of a great strategic plan is the leader's main task. However, more than words, a leader's actions are much more important the most important credibility factor in determining if leaders will continue to be followed.
The most dangerous myth is the one that assumes that leadership is reserved only for certain individuals. This myth is reinforced every time someone says: "Leaders are born, not made." We must remember that leadership is not an end in itself; rather, it is a process. Leadership is not recorded in a gene or in a secret code that cannot be interpreted by anyone else. Leadership is a set of practices, abilities, and capabilities that may be observed, studied, and learned.
The belief that leadership cannot be learned constitutes a much more powerful obstacle to the development of this ability than the nature of the leadership process itself.
Leadership is a way to mobilize others to work toward shared aspirations. Leadership is best expressed when the leader understands people's needs and desires and then takes into consideration their interests, dreams, hopes, visions, and values.
No leadership exists without support. More than just representating a personal point of view, successful leaders persuade others to join and follow them in pursuit of a common goal. Followers can then be directed to positive action, which will result in accomplishment which will be seen as improving the group's wellbeing.
The excuse "We've always done it this way" definitely does not fit into any creative leadership role. The vision of the leader must be panoramic. The leader should be shrewd and analytical about reaching the target and eager to learn. When asked about their best experiences, great leaders speak about occasions in which they imagined an exciting future for their organization and inspired others to join their quest to turn that vision into reality.
True leaders are psychologically secure. They do not feel threatened by sharing the decision-making process with others or by being receptive to ideas and initiatives from others. They do not fear the healthy environment of transparency where all viewpoints are considered and any team member receives appreciation for successful results. On the contrary, out-standing leaders are the first ones to listen to what others have to say. Their main concern is not to stand out; they are part of a team that is united, commited, and creative. In that atmosphere, all will give their best in mutual collaboration.
An important part of the leader's job is to show people that they can win. No one respects a leader who takes all the credit when, in reality, the idea, job, or project was a collaborative team effort. Many leaders make the mistake of taking the glory for themselves and sharing only failures to the group.
Sometimes leadership is a science, and sometimes leadership is an art. Position, job title, or a corner office does not make anyone a genuine leader. One can only lead to the extent that he or she can generate passion and share credit with everyone in the group. Rather than driving people like a herd of cattle, a leader needs to generate a team spirit of participation and importance. A leader serves more as a conductor who coordinates capable and talented team members to produce a beautiful symphony. Leaders conduct people to accomplish something they could not do by themselves. People work for a cause they believe in or come to believe in because they are influenced by their leaders.
True leadership is like yeast. It appears, above all, through the growth of those being led. This presumes vision and assurance. The good leader is more like a constant dripping which slowly wears down the stone, penetrating and fertilizing the surrounding territory, than like a fire which acts with vehemence and quickly burns everything to ashes, including the leader himself!
"The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (ITim. 3:1-7).
Augusto Cesar Maia is a church elder and a psychologist in Brazil.