Spirit-Anointed Leadership

Posted on February 22, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

After speaking at three events last week on leadership, I find the topic has somewhat saturated my thinking. Although far from being an expert on the subject, I have read, studied the topic and learned a lot about leadership from personal experiences. I can attest to the fact that, ironically, one often learns more from failures and negative experiences than from success. There are task-oriented leaders, people-oriented leaders and others lead from the power of a charismatic personality.

But there are some essential elements of leadership that come from God’s Spirit; this is true whether one is in a spiritual church-related or mission role or secular and community leadership. They are outlined in Isaiah 11:1-4. Although this is a Messianic passage with reference to Jesus, the principle can readily be applied to others. “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.”

Each of these characteristic are needed by any leader, whatever the situation. Knowledge is to have information and the ability to know the situation realistically. Peter Drucker once asked a group of Fortune 500 CEO’s what was the most important factor in leadership. After they suggested things such as vision, courage, strategic thinking, etc., Drucker revealed the ability to discern reality was most essential; if you missed that, presumptions would be made that would result in misleading decisions and directions.

But it is the Spirit who also gives understanding and wisdom. Understanding is insight into reality, the perception to see the implications, positive or negative, about the situation, the status of the organization, the challenges being faced and the attitudes of those being led. Wisdom then guides the choices of what is done with an understanding of the knowledge and information. There are various options and directions that can be chosen. Wisdom is the ability to anticipate the future, evaluate the options and identify the best option for moving toward the desired objective.

Two additional elements are counsel and strength. A leader needs thinking and insight beyond his own; we all have a tendency of tunnel-vision. Counsel gives us guidance from a larger perspective. Strength is the ability to make the right decisions, the commitment to follow through, the courage to persevere. It enables one to avoid equivocation and self-doubt; compelled by the power of a vision, the strength of leader elicits following of others.

Interestingly, this passage of Scripture indicates that all of these come from the Lord. Certainly, there are individuals who seem to be gifted with some or all of these characteristics of leadership. Discerning situations, applying wisdom, utilizing counsel are things that are taught in seminars and learned through experience, but effectively implementing each one and fitting them together is something that has to go beyond one’s innate ability, even in the secular corporate world or government and society. It is the Spirit of the Lord that is the source of anointed leadership.

That is why the passage concludes with a sixth element of leadership that is the most important of all–the fear of the Lord. Effective leadership has to be a unique mix of confidence and humility. One has to have a degree of confidence in their ability and training to do the job, but must also readily recognize his limitations and inadequacy, that he is dependent on the outside help of a higher power.

Effective leadership also comes from acknowledging there is an accountability beyond that to the stockholders, church members or one’s staff. It is the the sense of dependence on God and obedience to what pleases Him that will enable the leader to look to the Lord for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel and strength for the task.

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