Master-level leaders learn from the best when they follow Christ and adhere to the Scriptures. In my many years of leadership, I have observed seven essential qualities that help build solid character in leaders and bring out high achievement in their work.
1. A positive, faith-filled attitude
It is unbelievable what attitude can do. I believe that at least 85% of success stems from your attitude. The attitude you want as a leader is one of great faith, one that says, “God, I believe your Word. I trust in you.”
I went to a hospital to visit an older man who had requested prayer. He was a member of another church, so I went with that church’s pastor. The man was in bed, I said, “I’m going to anoint you with oil, and we’re going to believe that God will heal you.” He said, “Yes!” I anointed him with oil; we prayed over him, then rejoiced and thanked God for the outcome. After I walked out of the room with the other pastor, he said to me, “I don’t think he’s got long to live.” Talk about a lack of faith! We had just prayed in faith, but this pastor walked away from that faith within moments. What a negative attitude and poor leadership!
As a pacesetting leader, you must have a faith-filled, positive attitude and keep your words in harmony with what you believe.
2. An unswerving sense of mission
You have a call, a destiny, and a purpose, but there will be distractions along the way. Someone once said, “If you’re hunting for quail, don’t shoot at rabbits. If you do, you scare off the quail.”
For many years, I had a sign hanging in my office that said, “Stay on Target.” Pacesetting leaders stay on target with an unswerving sense of mission. Too many people get involved in things outside their calling when they should stay focused like a laser beam on what God has called them to do. These distractions can be tempting because they seemingly offer different kinds of “success.” You might be called to ministry but working at a company that wants to advance you and offers you free college courses in their field. You have to ask yourself, “Is that going to help me in what God has called me to do?” If not, you must pass that opportunity up as a distraction.
When you have an unswerving sense of mission, you are like a river instead of a swamp. A swamp doesn’t flow with purpose and direction but sprawls in every direction. A swamp breeds algae, bacteria, snakes, and other scary and unhelpful things. But a river flows positively in a particular direction and gives life to all sorts of beneficial things.
3. Seeks results, not activity for activity’s sake
Many would-be leaders are hard workers, but their life is full of activity, not results. What counts is not doing everything but doing the right things. Jesus had something to say about this.
John 15:8 KJV
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Better to have a tree with fewer, healthier fruit than a tree full of many tiny, useless fruit. Judge your activity by results.
4. Wants to serve rather than be recognized
The Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ day loved to sit in the most prominent seats at important events, loved their titles, and loved their position and authority. To them, leadership was all about having power over people and a big reputation. They were schemers and plotters. They had no desire to serve. Jesus said they wouldn’t even lift a finger to help someone.
Matthew 23:3–4 NLT
So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
Every business that starts with the main idea of only making money will fail. Every church that starts with the idea of having the best reputation will fail because every successful endeavor begins with serving others.
When I prepare a message, my goal is not for people to think, Dave Williams is smart. Most people listen with one mindset: What’s in it for me? Jesus knew this, which is why he talked to people in normal language and down-to-earth stories. He wasn’t trying to impress others with his intellect. He wanted to speak clearly so he could serve his listeners. He essentially said, “Here’s what’s in it for you.” He healed the sick, cleansed lepers, opened blind eyes, and fed the multitudes to show them a true servant’s heart.
In the same way, everything we do in life, church, or business should serve people without the goal of enhancing our reputation. As a pacesetting leader, you have the privilege and responsibility of leaving your reputation in God’s hands.
5. Delegates and releases potential in others
Moses was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when his father-in-law Jethro said, “The thing you do is not good.”
Moses was trying to be a good leader to two million people who were waiting in line to see him so he could settle their disputes and receive counsel (read Exodus 18). Jethro told Moses he was not being a good pastor because he was spreading himself too thin. Jethro then counseled Moses to let other people do some of the work, and let them handle the smaller matters. Then Moses wouldn’t wear himself out. In essence, Jethro said, “You will be able to lead them for a long time, and other people will get to spread their wings and become leaders under you. Everyone’s needs will be met.”
Jesus delegated responsibility to his disciples, and Paul delegated to Timothy. It is the natural way of pacesetting leadership.
When I spoke at pastors’ conferences in East Africa, they were very concerned when I talked about delegating because, in their country, the pastors did everything: weddings, funerals, baptisms, visitations, and more. I told them, “You’ve got to learn to delegate, or your church won’t grow.” One pastor pulled me aside and said, “I do not believe you are a true pastor to say that we must delegate.” I said, “If you don’t start delegating, you’re not going to live very long.” At that time, the average life span of men in his country of Tanzania was about forty years. I got a call the next year from that pastor’s wife. She said, “I think you saved my husband’s life. He’s starting to delegate and let other people take responsibility for ministry in the church, and the church is growing.”
Delegating expands your leadership and empowers others, which is a significant goal of pacesetting leadership.
6. Commitment to Excellence
“Good enough” is not good enough! I hear people say in the church and business worlds, “When dealing with volunteers, we can’t expect too much. After all, they’re not being paid.” I say if they are volunteering to help, they deserve to be led by someone who expects the best! Who wants to volunteer for mediocrity? No, I expect a lot from every volunteer. They should be better trained and better equipped than many Bible school graduates.
God cared enough to send his very best when he sent Jesus. He didn’t send an angel. He didn’t send an animal. He sent his Son, Jesus, to die for us. He gave his best! We should give him our best in everything.
A good leader watches out for lousy workmanship. Don’t do anything half-way. Do it with absolute excellence.
Proverbs 22:29 NLT
Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people.
Excellence is speedy, accurate, dependable, and reliable. It’s doing the very best you can. God doesn’t expect perfection, but he does expect our best. Pacesetting leaders must be committed to excellence and expect excellence from those they lead.
7. Has a proprietary disposition
Pacesetting leaders behave like they own the place, even if they are not the boss or the owner. I mean this in the best sense of the word. The pastor, CEO, or “top-dog” shouldn’t be the only one concerned about customers or members. Everyone in the organization should “own” the outcome.
If you see trash in the parking lot, don’t say, “Where’s the janitor?” Just pick it up! Make it your responsibility. That is part of a proprietary disposition. Take ownership of the problem and the solution. Then your business, ministry, or organization will rise above the others. You will develop in yourself, and others, the heart of a pacesetting leader.
Assimilate these seven keys, and expect your church, ministry, business or organization to rise above the crowd. You will develop in yourself and others the heart of a master-level leader. The Art of Pacesetting Leadership complete course is available online at DaveWilliams.com/PLonline.