A few years ago, I began to notice major differences in the ways gifted leaders led their teams. They all had the spiritual gift of leadership referred to in Romans 12:8, but they approached the challenges of leadership differently.
About the time I was making this observation, the management team at Willow Creek gave me a leadership book for my birthday. (The year before, they had hired an Elvis impersonator, who burst into my office during a meeting to serenade me. Elvis discovered my leadership style in a hurry. He barely made it out of my office with his blue suede shoes.)
This year they gave me a more appropriate gift—Certain Trumpets, by Garry Wills. Wills describes the enormous impact of great leaders whose particular leadership style meshed perfectly with a certain need in society.
For example, when people are being oppressed and want to break free from that yoke, the situation calls for a radical, transforming leader.
In a complex, pluralistic democracy, with thousands of constituencies that must be drawn together to form a government, a political or electoral leader is necessary.
In war time, a military style of leadership works best.
During an ideologically intense social struggle, an intellectual leader might fit the bill.
Wills effectively argues that there are many different styles of leadership, and certain styles fit certain leadership needs better than others.
Over the last few years, I've identified at least ten manifestations of the leadership gift as it plays out in the church. It's been helpful to our staff to identify our leadership styles and build leadership teams accordingly.
1. Visionary leader
These leaders have a crystal-clear picture in their minds of what they want to happen. They cast visions powerfully and possess indefatigable enthusiasm to pursue the mission.
Visionaries shamelessly appeal to anyone and everyone to get on board with the vision. They talk about it, write about it, burn white-hot for it. They are future-oriented, usually idealistic, and full of faith to believe the vision can and will be actualized if the dream is talked about and cast often enough.
Visionary leaders are not easily discouraged or deterred. In fact, if people tell them their dream is impossible, that just adds fuel to the fire in their spirit.
Visionary leaders may or may not be able to form teams, align talents, set goals, or manage progress toward the achievement of the vision. But this one thing is sure: They carry the vision. They cast the vision. They draw people into the vision, and they'll die trying to see it fulfilled.
I was at a conference with John Maxwell some time back. John was teaching on vision, and he started his talk on one side of the sanctuary to symbolize the beginning of the vision.
"You have no money, you have no people, you have no faith, but you have the vision. So you put one foot in front of the other, and you walk, by the light of the vision . ..." He began to walk across the stage.
"Then, along the way, as you share that vision, God gives you the faith, the power, the people, the resources . ..." Everyone's eyes were riveted on John as he made this vision walk. But there was a planter between where he was and where he was headed. Inside, I'm screaming, Watch out for the planter! John never saw it. He ran into it and stumbled—but the vision was so powerful that he never stopped speaking, never lost his train of thought. I was looking around the crowd, and no one else even seemed to notice!