Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

9 Questions to Ask When Identifying a Potential Leader

question mark on block with lights signifying questioning the church

Some people know they are leaders; others will become leaders if they are willing to put in the work. One of the important elements of leadership is identifying and investing time in those whom you think would be a good candidate to lead at some point.

Jesus Leadership Criteria

But just because someone volunteers, does not make him/her a prime candidate for leadership. The Bible, although not directly, does address leadership criteria by analyzing Jesus’ life. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you have identified someone whom you think has leadership potential:

1. Are they good fruit?

When I buy fruit from the grocery store, I don’t usually buy the first container I see. I flip it over, careful to inspect each piece of fruit. Too many times have I gone home, opening a carton only to find that mold has developed deep in between the fruit. Good fruit is not only good on the outside where we can see, but also good on the inside. When figuring out if someone is good fruit, ask yourself these questions:

Does this person meet deadlines?

Does this person do the work asked of him?

Does this person go the extra mile when it comes to ensuring the health and wellbeing of others?

Although we are all sinners and no one is perfect, the leaders you identify not only are doing their best to develop the fruits of the spirit in their lives, but also that leader exhibits the same fruits within the church. People who are becoming more like Christ are emulating patience, goodness, joy, etc. but they are also honest about how long and difficult that process is. People who are good fruit don’t pretend to be someone they are not. Conversely, those are people who are doing what they can to become better Christians, but they are also honest about the days when they struggle, too.

2. Are they teachable?

One of the characteristics I look for in clients to sign to the literary agency I work for is a teachable spirit. A client may have a fabulous book idea and be a stellar writer, but if she isn’t willing to heed advice from me or anyone else in the field, how can I work with her and help her develop her skills as a writer? It’s the same way when identifying leaders within the church. Part of the requirements for being a leader is to meet with the pastor and other leaders regularly for accountability and spiritual growth. If that person is shut off from learning anything new or leading in a different way than what we are used to, more than likely he/she is not fit to lead.

3. Are they accountable?

Leaders know they need others to help them be effective leaders. They know they cannot go through the Christian life alone. They enlist the help of other leaders to make sure they are doing the right things in their lives. They have more seasoned Christians that care enough about them to make sure they are on the right path. These are the people leaders live in the light with, meaning they tell them everything they are feeling and thinking, including their struggles and difficulties.

4. Are they authentic?

Unfortunately, in this society, Christians are too concerned with appearing perfect in others’ eyes. This is one of the biggest hindrances to spiritual growth. People can’t get to know the real you if you wear a mask around others all the time. I’m not suggesting you have to air all your dirty laundry to the public, but true leaders are willing to be real about their lives—even the parts that make them look unfavorable in others’ eyes.

5. Are they a servant?

One day I was walking around my college campus, and I spotted the Dean of students a few feet from me. The man, in one of the highest positions in the school, was picking up garbage found on the ground and putting it into the nearest receptacle. He was humble enough to participate in the school’s upkeep. Jesus was the same way. Although he was God, he emptied himself of His power, so He could be like us. Identify people that care enough about the church to lower themselves, performing menial service tasks and projects like Jesus. This means they are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the church—and its people—are cared for.

6. Are they humble?

Pride is the antithesis of good leadership. Pride says, “I know it all, I can’t learn from anyone else.” If we want to identify potential leaders, we don’t need to look any further than Jesus. The Pharisees ordered their knowledge over others; we need to empty ourselves and not lord our leadership over others. People need to know they can come to a potential leader with the understanding that they will be treated with respect, doing their best to hear concerns and resolving them in the best way possible.

7. Do they handle conflict well?

One way to identify a person’s maturity level is to find out how a person reacts when they are involved in a conflict. Do they immediately get defensive? Do they deny the allegations? Or do they think about it, seeing if there is anything they can learn from it?

Everyone deals with conflict eventually. People show their true colors when confronted, but it is how they react to it that counts. Good leaders take responsibility for their part in the conflict but express themselves in a way that speaks the truth in love but cares enough to work towards reconciliation.

8. Are they strong in the face of trials?

Anyone can lead when everything is going well. But what happens when trials emerge in the church—pastoral transitions, reduction of programs, conflict among ministry leaders. Do they flee and fail to take the lead when there is a gap in leadership? Or do they roll up their sleeves and resume leadership, even if they are not fully aware of what is needed to do? Some leaders were born leaders. But others can be made if given proper training. Sometimes God throws a church a curveball that doesn’t allow leaders proper training within a reasonable timeframe. Leaders will step in even if they feel ill-equipped to do so.

9. Are they submissive?

Submission is not just for the marriage relationship. Scripture talks about us, “being in submission to the authorities above us.” This applies to our government, our homes and our churches. Good leaders will submit to those above them, even if they don’t agree with everything being said and done. They will still continue to serve and carry out the tasks required. When most people want to rebel, good leaders will be in quiet submission. This doesn’t mean they can’t express concerns. But they are satisfied with expressing themselves, then putting the situation in God’s hands and letting him handle it.

As leaders, one of our main responsibilities is to replicate leaders for future groups, so groups can multiply in a healthy way. But investing in the right person is vital to ensure a church is functioning properly. By asking yourself these simple questions, they will give you a good idea if the person you have in mind is worth the time and effort to invest your time and resources.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ChristianChan 

Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. A two-time Children's Book of the Year award winner, she is also a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her newest release, I Surrender All (Sort of) helps readers lay down the parts of their lives they are holding onto, so God can do the impossible. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and crazy dog, Cookie. For more information, please visit her website here.




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