Michael's last point surprised me. "The leader must be a pain-bearer." Leaders know things about people they wish they didn't know. Because they see people at their best and sometimes at their worst, they see things and hear things that they cannot share with others. I do not think this applies uniquely to people in the ministry. Anyone charged with a high position in any organization must eventually deal with disappointment.

People fail.
They break promises.
They fail to perform.

Their marriages sometimes break up.
Their children get in trouble.

They forget what you told them.
They lie.
They cheat.
They cover up.
They mislead.
They gossip.
They false accuse.
They sin over and over and over again.

To anyone with a passing knowledge of the Bible, this should not come as any great surprise. The point is not that people fail time and again. The deeper point is that the best of us fail in many ways. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."

Leaders bear the pain of others, and they do it without talking about it. This is one of the reasons that leaders are lonely. They bear burdens they cannot and should not share with others. Leaders who talk too much about the failures of those around them will not remain in leadership very long. Sometimes you have to bear the pain and just keep moving forward. Nehemiah offers an excellent example in this regard. Before he approached the king, he got alone with God and poured out his heart, confessing the sins of his own people (Nehemiah 1). This is part of what Hebrews 13:17 means when it reminds us that leaders must "give an account." Howard Hendricks remarked that if you're going to be a shepherd, you're going to walk in manure from time to time.

Here are the four characteristics of good leaders:

Guts
Love
Stamina
Pain-Bearing

It is a high calling and an awesome privilege to be a leader. It is also sometimes a difficult and thankless job. Pray for your leaders, give them your support, and give thanks to God for them.

You can reach the author at  ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.