What is Leadership?

It’s been a while since my last blog post, and this one is going to be a little bit different from the way that I usually blog.  I’ve been busy this last week preparing for midterm exams and presentations and I just wanted to share some thoughts that came to mind, so please bear with me.

On Wednesday night I was asked to share a talk at a youthgroup.  The head youth leader told me that they are trying to transition and train the youth to become leaders in the church.  I was excited when I heard this because this is a trend that is happening in many churches that I have attended and churches that my friends attend.  I wanted to encourage these youth with stories about other churches.

As soon as I started giving my talk, I knew something wasn’t right.  The engagement level of the youth was low and a lot of them were giving me blank stares.  About halfway into my talk it dawned on me why this was the case.  I asked the youth to think about characteristics that they had that they could use to be a leader with and to shout them out.  No one raised their voice.  The youth leaders caught onto my drift and they started throwing out things that they were seeing in the youth.  Still, not a single youth spoke up.  This was so sad to me, they have a youth band that leads the whole congregation in worship every few months and not a single one of them spoke up.  I asked myself, “Why? What’s going on?”  I realized at that point that they don’t understand what leadership is.  I realized that there was this misconception that leaders had to be extroverted, outgoing, charismatic, center stage, etc.

From my point of view there are at least two types of leaders.  The first is what I described, they are the ones that lead by example.  The second is one that people don’t think about very often, the one that leads by supporting.  “How can you lead if you are in a supportive role?” you may ask.  Well think about it this way, who is the one behind all of the people that lead by example?  It’s the people that support them.  In the bible study that I run, one of my friends always supports me and challenges me when we have our study.  He may not realize this, but he is leading me by pushing and guiding me in the right direction.  In this sense, he is a leader that is leading me.  I lead the bible study by example, and my friend leads me by supporting me.  Without him at the bible study, the discussions don’t happen in the group and I don’t know what to do.

I am going to use a band as an example.  In a band, arguably the leader is the lead singer and/or the lead guitarist.  They may be front and center on the stage, but without their back up, the bassist, drummer, keyboard player, back up vocalist(s), etc. they may have a hard time getting the audiences attention.  The band needs each other to help guide each other especially when it comes to harmonizing and keeping a beat.  Then there is also the band manager, he/she makes all the arrangements for performances and gives the band feedback and manages finances, etc.  The manager guides the band by telling them the latest updates and guiding them to which venues would be beneficial for them to perform in and other management things that the band cannot do themselves.  Then there’s the sound technicians, without them, the band may not sound as good.  The sound technician knows the venue and knows the band so he/she knows what settings are best for the band depending on the environment.  All of these people play some sort of leadership role by specializing in what they do best.

So I need some help and advice from all of you that are reading this.  How can I convey this message to this youthgroup that I spoke at (and any other youthgroups that need to understand that there are different types of leaders)?  Is there a term that I can use where I don’t have to say “leader” to them and put the wrong image in their minds?


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