Is Leadership Internal or External?

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus instructs his disciples to make disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all he had taught them. This same mandate has been given to all disciples of Jesus Christ through the last two centuries and has remained a constant of the Christian faith. Surprisingly, the connection between this mandate and leadership development has gone virtually unnoticed and sometimes completely absent in the local church. This may partially be due to the fact many see leadership effectiveness solely related to the accomplishment of important tasks, knowing what needs to be done and getting it done (Ayers, 2006). It may also be due to the simplistic perspective many have to church structure that God is the head while the pastor is the conduit, and everyone else simply falls in line.

This is further evidence that leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth (Burns, 2010). Discipleship is widely held as an internal process of growing deeper in a relationship with Jesus and becoming more like him, however, leadership is often perceived as an external process focused on processes, efficiencies, and external production (Northouse 2010). Leadership, however, is actually concerned more with the personhood of the leader and the dynamics created with followers resulting in a form of influence (Northouse, 2013). Leadership is a social construct shared between two people geared toward achieving a particular goal (Lewis, 1996). It begins internally to create an external reality. It is reflective of a discipleship process where an individual inwardly chooses to adhere to commands of Christ, becoming more like Him in thought and attitude to produce an external behavior. Discipleship and leadership development, though different in some ways, are more similar than commonly thought.


Ayers, M. (2006). Towards a Theology of Leadership. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, 1(1), 3–27.

Burns, J. M. (2010). Leadership (1 edition). New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Lewis, P. A. (1996). Transformational Leadership. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

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

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