In a recent class at Baylor, I asked the students to define a leader and then to talk about someone who exemplified leadership in their church. They described people with many different personalities and many different qualities. We concluded that there are in fact many different leadership styles that can be effective in leading the church today.

Bill Hybels, founding pastor of the Willow Creek Church, concurs with our class discussion. There is no single style of leading the church. In fact, he has identified several different leadership styles followed by men and women who lead in the church.

  • VISIONARY LEADERS: They cast visions, exhibit indefatigable enthusiasm, and are usually future-oriented and idealistic.

  • DIRECTIONAL LEADERS: They sort the options, assess values, and point the organization in the right direction.

  • STRATEGIC LEADERS: They break vision into achievable steps, form a game plan, and synchronize the various parts of the organization.

  • MANAGING LEADERS: They establish mile markers, organize for achievement, and then manage the process.

  • MOTIVATIONAL LEADERS: They discern who needs what for the proper motivation.

  • SHEPHERDING LEADERS: They love team members, nurture them, and support them.

  • TEAM-BUILDING LEADERS: They place the right people in the right positions for the right reasons who will then produce the right results.

  • ENTREPRENEURIAL LEADERS: They function with great vision, energy and effectiveness in a start-up operation.

  • RE-ENGINEERING LEADERS: They love to tune up, heal, and revitalize hurting organizations.

  • BRIDGE-BUILDING LEADERS: They bring together a variety of constituencies under a single umbrella to achieve the goals of the organization.

How do you feel about the list? When I shared the list with my class of ministry students at Baylor University they added an eleventh category: an EXAMPLE leader. This is the person who leads by example and motivates others to follow, not by what he says but by what he does. What other ones would you add to the list?

Here are some further observations on the list.

  • No one person fits into one single leadership style. Instead, on different situations, leaders can shift from one leadership style to another. In fact, to be an effective leader in the church probably requires us to use different styles at different times.

  • On the other hand, we can say that no one leader fits every leadership style. The requirements of the various leadership styles cannot be met by every person, due to experience, personality, or circumstance. Not being able to employ every leadership style does not disqualify us from being leaders.

  • Sometimes the key is not having one person who employs multiple leadership styles but having a group of people, each with distinct and complementary leadership styles, coming together to form a leadership team. In fact, the most effective organizations do just that. They bring together a team of people, each gifted in different leadership styles, because all of the different leadership styles will be needed at one time or another.

Spend some time this week evaluating the various leadership styles. Which ones do you feel comfortable with? Which ones have you employed? Which ones seem to be outside your range? After evaluating yourself, look around at those with whom you serve. What can you do to benefit from the synergy of complementary leadership styles moving together toward a common goal?