CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT THROUGH CHARACTER FORMATION
Part of the LifeandLeadership.com ministry resources on Christian Leadership.
Leadership development is a universally recognized necessity for all leadership styles and approaches, especially with transformational leadership and empowerment. Ministry resources convey the theme that leaders must develop in at least two ways. First, and most important, is their walk with God through the experiences of life. This concentrates not so much on the “doing” as the “being” of the leader. It stresses the importance of an authentic walk with God and genuine spirituality which manifests itself through an increasingly Christ-like character, and consistently high standards of ethical and moral conduct. The second area of leadership development covers the skill sets necessary for leadership competence, encompassing both relational and task dimensions.
This resource guide focuses on Leadership Development Through Character Formation.
Popular business books on character emphasize working harder to develop ethical characteristics. This is fine and valuable, and I have included several titles with this message. Those with a biblical basis are preferred, however, in that they uphold the biblical teaching that man’s will and strength are not adequate for deep inner transformation. It requires an indwelling Spirit with whom we cooperate through obedience. The result is the “fruit of the Spirit,” or the life of Jesus increasingly manifested in us. This does not minimize the need for us to “make every effort to add to our faith goodness” (2 Peter 1:5ff), or to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) It simply reminds us that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) Also, in Scripture, our motivation for life change is rooted in our experience of God’s love, our desire to honor God, and our hope in eschatological vision of one day being complete in Christ. As John says, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3) For this reason, we begin with the biblically-based materials. The business-based titles are quite good, however. In fact at times they are more effective in expressing the importance of character and showing the relationship between being and doing. This resource guide suggests a few titles from both areas.
Leadership Catalyst, True-Faced Leadership
- Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and Ken McElrath, Beyond Your Best: Develop Your Relationships, Fulfill Your Destiny – This is an updated version of The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence — A fine discussion of how leaders must develop in both competence and character. Using scores of biblical and real life examples, the authors present a convincing case that effective leaders are those who focus on both being (character) and doing (capacity), with emphasis on being.
- Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch, Behind the Mask: Reversing the Process of Unresolved Life Issues – Builds on the insights of character development from Ascent of a Leader / Beyond Your Best. Here the authors discuss the effect of unresolved sin, our own or someone else’s, on character development in leaders.
- Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch, TrueFaced: Trusting God and Others With Who You Truly Are, Revised Edition — A small group study guide to help leaders apply the lessons of Ascent of a Leader/Beyond Your Best in the context of a community of grace.
Other Biblically Based
- Henry Cloud, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality – Suggests that who a person is determines if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed.
- John Dickson, Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership – Shows how humility translates into leadership, primarily by making the humble life persuasive and attractive by the weight of character.
- Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change — Excellent development of the character ethic of leadership, an “inside out” approach to lasting change and personal effectiveness.
- Fred Smith and David L. Goetz, Leading With Integrity: Competence With Christian Character — A probing look at the “sectional” nature of character and how to face one’s true self honestly.
- John Maxwell, Developing The Leader Within You – Perhaps the most readable and popular developments of the subject.
- James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It: Why People Demand It. Revised Edition — Based on extensive research on the importance of character and credibility for leadership influence and how to develop it.
- James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner and Jane Bozarth, Strengthening Credibility: A Leader’s Workbook — The companion workbook to Credibility.
- James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Truth About Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know – Updates Kouzes and Posner’s research from a related volume, The Leadership Challenge, by discussing the leadership preferences of the millennial generation.
- Bill George and Peter Sims, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series). This, and the prequel by Bill George, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, are especially good at helping leaders discover their authentic self and clarify the values by which they will live and lead.
- Robert E. Quinn, Deep Change: Discovering the Leadership Within — An excellent discussion of how leaders must model deep change before they can facilitate it in others.
- Robert E. Quinn, Build the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change – A follow up to Quinn’s best-selling book, Deep Change. Not only does he tell the story of persons who used the book for their own personal transformation, he also presents a new model of change based on eight practices.
- John Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow — a daily reading guide on developing essential qualities of character.
This is one of several Pathways to Leadership Development that are featured on LifeandLeadership.com:
- Christian Leadership Development in Congregations, Theory and Practice
- Christian Leadership Development Through Spiritual Formation
- Christian Leadership Development Through Character Formation
- Christian Leadership Development Through Life Experience
- Christian Leadership Development Through Self-Awareness
- Christian Leadership Development Through Life Effectiveness
- Christian Leadership Development Through Communication Competence
- Christian Leadership Development Through Failure and Setback
- Christian Leadership Development Over Life Span — J. Robert Clinton Leadership Emergence Theory (separate page)
See also the Leadership Index and the overall Ministry Resource Index for annotated guides on over 100 related issues. LifeandLeadership.com will expand significantly on this resource guide in the section on Spiritual Formation which is in development.