the shape of leadership

Three Things a Leader Needs to Keep in Check

Don’t let distractions diminish your influence

Influence Magazine on June 7, 2018

Becoming a great church leader isn’t easy. It takes a certain skill set and a commitment to learn. It also requires prayerful introspection and a willingness to change and grow. After all, it’s is not just about having followers; it’s about relying on God to help you lead them well.

In the busyness of preparing and practicing leadership, there are certain character traits that are easily overlooked. The charisma, drive and passion many leaders possess sometimes lead to habits that prove detrimental.

Below are three things you need to keep in check to lead effectively. Putting these issues under the control of the Holy Spirit will increase your influence.


Leading a church or organization can give you a big head. Being the leader means people listen to you, look to you for guidance, and seek you out for direction. Great leaders of influence keep their egos in check, even as they lean in to that influence.

An unchecked ego produces an environment where leaders push their own agenda. They start to see the vision of the church as their personal goal. They begin to believe any success must be the result of their hard work — and no one else’s. Or worse, they shape the organization’s vision to feed their own agenda, playing favorites or leveraging their position for personal gain.

Jesus taught a brand of servant leadership that was unheard of in His day and is in short supply today. When leaders seek to serve first, they shelve ego and find fulfillment.

Jesus taught a brand of servant leadership that was unheard of in His day and is in short supply today.


As a leader, there is a lot riding on every decision you make. Perhaps you sense that pressure as you lead staff meetings, launch projects or just preach on Sundays. Your audience is looking to you for results.

Leaders who don’t keep those expectations in check may become full of self-doubt, feeling as though people are scrutinizing their every move and exaggerating every misstep. This can lead to feelings of defeat and depression. Curtailing expectations sets the bar at a realistic level.

Conversely, unchecked expectations cause some leaders to become overly ambitious. Drive is essential for leadership initiative. But when you feel like it’s all up to you, you may work to the point of burnout, feel isolated and alone, or lash out at those who don’t work as hard as you. Instead, lean in to God’s enabling rather than your own abilities.


There is nothing wrong with experiencing emotions, of course. But left unchecked, emotions can ruin the platform you’re working hard to build for God’s work. Find ways to reign in frustration, lighten your mood or eliminate envy, whatever the case may be.

When leaders leave emotions unchecked, they often make rash decisions. Take time to pray and sort through your feelings as you lead. Then, only respond after you have peace in your heart.

If you are struggling emotionally, seek counsel from wise friends. If the problem is interfering with your relationships or otherwise affecting your quality of life, get help from a mental health professional.

Self-discipline, self-control and focus are essential to godly leadership. The apostle Paul kept his flesh in check and his eyes on Christ as he pursued his calling (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:12-14). If we want to have lasting influence in our ministries, we must do the same.


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