Philosophy of Leadership

What is leadership? J. Oswald Sanders writes, “Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead.” [1]  Taking his definition a step further, he concludes: “To aspire to leadership in God’s kingdom requires us to be willing to pay a price higher than others are willing to pay.” [2] Leaders in God’s kingdom understand the price that has been paid for their lives, and they therefore, consider the cost of leading, serving, and discipleship. The Center for Development of Evangelical Leadership (CDEL) carries out the vision of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary glorify God by equipping Christian leaders who think theologically, and are spiritually and emotionally healthy to serve in the kingdom of God. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).”

The “primary source of knowledge about the ultimate purpose of leadership is in the Bible,” and the Bible reveals that “Godly leadership exists to promote God’s ultimate purpose for the individual, the world and himself.” [3] Jesus is our example for Godly leadership; he taught and modeled for his disciples (the future leaders of the world) a philosophy of leadership. His practices provide practical application for leaders in their relationships and organizations.

A Christian leader must be person of great character. He or she must be yielded to Christ
who shapes the character of a leader. Only in Christ can leaders understand their true identity and calling as leaders who are servants. Only in Christ are leaders compelled to humble themselves and live as people of integrity. It is Christ who calls His leaders to a committed and disciplined life. As Christian leaders, we commit to fulfilling God’s mission for his kingdom and not building our own kingdoms on earth. We seek to understand the purpose for which we have been called out by God, and earnestly consider the responsibility to mentor others and make disciples.

Being self-aware and faithfully committing to self-leadership is critical for leaders who desire to finish strong as the Apostle Paul regularly encourages us. We surrender to God’s transformation of ourselves first, yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our own hearts and commit to an authentic, loving, gracious, and disciplined life as we influence and mentor others for change.

Transformational Leaders in God’s Kingdom

Jesus was a transformational leader, and he took the opportunity to develop his disciples into transformational leaders as well. He did this by giving them a proper perspective of leadership. His lesson in Mark 10:43b-45 begins, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many [NIV].” [4] Through this teaching, Jesus is setting a standard for his kingdom where “the only ‘greatness’ known to it shall be the greatness of humility and devotedness to the service of others. He that goes down the deepest in these services of self-denying humility shall rise the highest and hold the ‘chiefest’ place in that kingdom.” [5] Through his short response, Jesus teaches three lessons: leadership is not about title or position, rather leadership is about a person’s character and the condition of their heart, and he presents himself, the Son of Man, as the example of true leadership. From God’s perspective, a great leader must be a slave to Him and a servant of all.


[1] J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 27.  

[2] Ibid, 115.

[3] James E. Plueddemann, Leading Across Cultures: Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church. (Downers Grove, Il: IVP Academic, 2009), 159.

[4] Also reference Matthew 20:26b-28 and Luke 22:24-27.

[5] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 181.