You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord.
What Kind of Leader Are You?
What kind of person are you among those you lead? Not what kind of person do you want to be, know to be, or plan to be—what kind of person have you proved to be? That’s an important question for all leaders to ask. Would it be good if others imitated you? Would they be imitating the Lord if they imitated you?
What Kind of Leader Should You be?
Are you a mother, father, and brother? In the letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul says that the kind of leader he has been among them is characterized in a variety of familial ways—as a mother, father, and brother.
What about you? Out of what way do you tend to lead most? Read through these traits from chapter 2.
Leading Like a Mother
. . . though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
For those of us that are not mothers (or women), it might feel odd to say we should lead like one, but Paul is unashamed in his metaphor. He says that his mother-like leadership is characterized by a deep and loving care for those he leads, shown through the following:
- Showing gentleness
- Providing nourishment (nursing)
- Taking care
- Taking ownership (for her own children)
- Not being demanding
- Displaying affectionate desire
- Sharing his life
- Having genuine joy in the people (very dear)
Leading Like a Father
For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Leading like a father is not for cowards who are worried what others may think. It takes courage. We must be bold in taking responsibility for others and in speaking God’s truth. Fatherly leadership is characterized by speaking the Word of God clearly so that people are walking with God faithfully in these types of ways:
- Taking ownership (for his children)
- Paying methodical attention (each one of you)
- Exhorting and encouraging
- Charging (challenging)
- Concerning himself with godly conduct and worship
- Speaking God’s Word
Lead Like a Brother
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.
1 Thessalonians 2:9–10
Most often, Paul refers to those he leads as “brothers.” He is like the older brother in a family who sets the tone for the other siblings in how the parents’ authority will be received. Brothers are a blessing in hard work. A father is with you before the work telling you what to do, a mother comforts you after the work, but a brother is with you during the work, setting an example of how to do the work. Brothers don’t just teach God’s Word; they live God’s Word. Brothers don’t just assign and delegate tasks to others, but they seek not to be a burden by shouldering the load. Brother lead by setting an example in the following:
- Laboring and toiling alongside them
- Not being a burden
- Proclaiming the gospel
- Setting an example in holy conduct
- Living transparently (to those who witness him)
Where Do You Need to Grow?
When you look at your own leadership, is it off balance? Are you too fatherly or too motherly? Are you always wanting to care and nurture and never spur on to what God is speaking, or hold others accountable to action? Are you always wanting to speak truth and challenge others to be better, but find it hard to really enjoy or show affection and appreciation to those you lead? Do you find it easy to be in an authority role where you instruct or offer expert care and comfort, but that it’s harder to work alongside as the example of what faithfulness looks like?
We must have a balanced leadership so that we can truly love others with God’s deep love, instruct them with God’s truth, and work alongside as an example of God’s mission.
Caleb Davis is the Community Groups pastor at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.