Encouraging Authentic Leadership in Your Church

An authentic leader is one who is grounded in his positive psychological qualities and strong ethics, and allows his leadership to flow from this grounding. (Walumbwa, 2008) The five distinct characteristics of authentic leadership are: understanding purpose, having strong values about the right thing to do, establishing trusting relationships with others, demonstrating self-discipline and acting on values, and being passionate about personal mission. (Northouse, 2013)

One of the primary examples of authentic leadership can be found by studying the life of Jesus Christ. Throughout the course of ministry Jesus demonstrated the five characteristics of authentic leadership (Northouse, 2013) by understanding his purpose, (Jn. 18:37, Mk. 1:38) having strong values about the right thing to do, (Lk. 6:9) establishing trusting relationships with others, (Mt. 28:18-20) demonstrating self-discipline (Lk. 23) and being passionate about his mission. (Mt. 21:12, Lk. 23:26-46)

For many in a faith community of disciples of Christ, there is an appeal to follow an authentic leader. Since Jesus demonstrated so clearly how a leader of faith should conduct his behavior, it is natural for people of faith to desire to follow a leader of the same caliber and leading from the same style. Though this is a fair desire, it may not always be a fair expectation. Leaders should strive to lead from an authentic mindset, but it is important that followers maintain a proper level of expectation, stopping short of thinking it is a right. Authentic leadership is not easy and can take a good part of a lifetime to live out, (Northouse, 2013) so grace should be extended along with patience when forming expectations of leaders. As Paul encourages believers in Romans 12: 10, the community of believers should extend love and brotherly affection, and this should be the case in matters of leadership as well.


Avolio, B. J., Walumbwa, F. O., & Weber, T. J. (2009). Leadership: current theories, research, and future directions. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 421–449.

Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English standard version (ESV text ed). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure†. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89–126.

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