Gary Nelson, former General Secretary for Canadian Baptist Ministries (our tribe) and current President of Tyndale University, told me this week that a colleague described his leadership this way: "You prefer to make every decision from consensus, but when there is no consensus you are unafraid to make a decision." I've known Gary for 20 years, and that nails it. And it articulates a winsome model of good leadership.
A good leader is neither a bully nor coward. They do not arbitrarily impose their will on anyone, but they're not afraid to break an impasse, either. A good leader seeks and honours a wide range of views, listens closely to all of them, asks many questions, probes for the values underneath, gives the benefit of the doubt, and works to shape consensus from diversity.
But consensus is not always possible, especially when underlying values clash. In that case, consensus is not even desirable, because it will involve a fatal compromise. It's then that a good leader decides. That decision is anchored in deep convictions and core values. It never asks, "Will this be popular?" but only, "Is this the right thing to do?"
Every good leader is a peace-maker until they have to become a warrior.
Which points to the secret of good leadership: it comes from good self-leadership. Every good leader I know, whether they oversee a massive organization or no more than their own family, have this in common: each and all lead themselves well. They have disciplines to subdue their anger, to assuage their insecurities, to deepen their humility, to bolster their courage, and to clarify their beliefs. They rarely need to be rebuked because they beat everyone else to the punch. They know, as David did, how to find strength in God when others want to lynch them (see 1 Samuel 30:3-6). They can say, with total conviction, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Which is to say, all good leaders are good followers. They submit, heart and soul and mind, to the Leader of Leaders, the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, and the only one who is truly good – Christ Jesus.