"Five Types of Leaders"
by Tom Goodman
November 3, 2005
In his book, Paul on Leadership, Gene Wilkes identified the leadership principles he saw in Paul’s life, and then he applied those principles to the transitions that leaders need to take our churches through. Legacy Drive Baptist Church
successfully moved through their difficult transition to become a force for God in Plano. Go to www.legacychurch.org to learn more about the church—now known simply as Legacy Church.
For the rest of this e-newsletter, I’m just going to quote what Wilkes said about the diverse leadership styles that show up as a church makes changes. It’s about the first big conflict the church faced, recorded in Acts 15. The
early church had to transition, too. They transitioned from being a Jewish-only church to becoming a church for Gentile seekers, but it wasn’t an easy change. Wilkes says that there were five types of leaders that surfaced as the church
worked through their new way of thinking, and he says that those five types of leaders surface as a church works through changes today, too.
Here’s what I want you to do: As you read this article, try to identify the kind of leader you are for Hillcrest. Also, try to identify the Hillcrest leaders who play the five roles that Wilkes describes.
“The Importance of Multiple Leaders”
Gene Wilkes, Paul on Leadership, pages 116-118
The conflict [in Acts 15] was resolved because of an interaction between multiple leaders with multiple leadership styles. The dispute was not a theological one but one in which the existing members had to decide whether they would embrace
new brothers and sisters in Christ who were not Jewish.
Five kinds of leaders interacted in the Acts 15 scenario. Each one played a crucial part in resolving the conflict. Each one held a shared leadership role that was necessary to bring an innovation to the group, get perspective, and
make a call that all could move forward together. There is a season for every type of leadership, and every leader may find himself or herself acting as one of these types some time in a ministry of transition.
Paul, the catalytic leader – Every movement has a catalytic leader who pioneers change. Paul was the catalyst for change in the makeup of who would be part of the church. He boldly called for radical inclusiveness and
insisted things change to make room for the new brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul pressed the issue until conflict arose. Catalytic leaders do that.
In my context of ministry, I often serve as a catalytic leader. I am not wired that way in personality like Paul, but if an innovation is clearly necessary to keep on mission, I will be the catalyst to implement it. Catalytic leadership
is essential to introducing change to a static or unhealthy situation. God uses these leaders to stir up dying fires and to ignite new ones like lightning striking a forest.
Peter, the bridge leader – Groups need leaders who stand as a bridge between the old reality and the new one. Peter was the bridge leader in this conflict who straddled the shared past of the Jewish followers of Jesus and the new
Gentile seekers. He could relate to the fears of lost tradition, but he had experienced the fresh wind and fire of the Holy Spirit falling on the seekers. His speech to the leaders in Jerusalem bridged Paul’s innovation to their respected
past and made a way for the traditionalists to get to the new shore.
Transitioning requires bridge leaders. You need those who honor the past but who have experienced or seen the future and are willing to build a bridge of transition to it. Senior members of a congregation or staff members with long
tenures can be bridge builders in seasons of change. While bridges can be crossed both ways, true bridge leaders construct one-way passages to the future which are anchored to the solid rock of the past.
James, the consensus leader – James made the call related to Paul’s innovation. He did so in a way that brought elements from the past to merge with the realities of the present. His decision included general, time-honored
principles that could be translated into any culture with the radical, new covenant truth of justification with God through Christ alone. His decision created a consensus that allowed both groups to move forward together.
Consensus can sometimes be dangerous to the church’s mission. You can compromise a catalytic concept with too much consensus building. On the other hand, without some consensus the catalyst can cause an explosion in the laboratory that
could burn the place down. Consensus leadership combines the past with the future to create a present alive with possibilities.
Barnabas, the supportive leader – Barnabas tells his part of the story in the Acts 15 record. He is not a prominent player at this meeting, but he is present. He was a supporting cast member in the movement of God among
the Gentile seekers. Everyone in the Jerusalem church knew him from their first days after Pentecost. He was a charter member whom the church often called upon to inspect the working of God around the epicenter of the church. In
Acts 11:20-24, when the church at Antioch started growing by presenting the gospel to the Gentiles, Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the church at Jerusalem to check it out. He was chosen because he was a good man, full of the Holy
Spirit and faith. He was also known among the Christians in Antioch as a supporter of God’s work. They, too, called upon him to pioneer Christ’s work among the Gentiles. At the gathering in Jerusalem, he simply told his stories and
stood beside the catalytic leader as a sign of support.
Supportive leadership is necessary in seasons of transition. Every catalytic leader needs a supportive leader who can tell similar stories. Every bridge builder needs this leader to gain support for the far side where the bridge she
constructs will end. Supportive leaders are quietly present in the chaos of change to encourage the other leaders and act in concert with them.
The traditionalist, the status quo leader – In Acts 15, the status quo leaders met Paul and Barnabas in Antioch and caused such a disturbance it became headlines. Both the catalytic leaders and the status-quo leader refused
to budge from their positions, so they took the fight to Jerusalem. The status-quo leaders refused to accept the innovation brought by the missionaries and resolved to stop it before it went any further. In Jerusalem they led other
traditionalists to stand against the inclusion of the Gentile seekers without first conforming to their interpretation of the Scriptures.
I tend to paint these leaders with dark hues. As a servant leader in the ministry of transition, these leaders often lead against the new work of God. Traditionalists, however, have a role to play in transition. They always make
sure you know where you have come from and what the rules of the game are. Their tendency to be uncompromising insists that catalytic leaders provide solid evidence and heart-deep resolve for the innovation they bring. These leaders are
the weights you press against to build leadership muscle. Status-quo leaders can help hone the sharpness of a vision, but they must not stand in the way of on-mission leaders and followers.
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