5 Characteristics of People Who Lead by Influence

by Paul on March 9, 2009

As far as I know, church planting movements are the only modern example of the Gospel spreading rapidly throughout decentralized systems.  Since I’m trying to catalyze multiple Gospel movements among the decentralized communities online, offline CPMs are of particular interest. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the leadership styles of the national-level and multi-national-level leaders of Church Planting Movements.  Without a doubt, all leaders of active Church Planting Movements around the world lead by influence rather than position. 

I think that is a strong indicator of the leadership style necessary for catalyzing Gospel Planting Movements online. If I’m right, leaders of ministries online are going to have to become master influencers of multiple systems to achieve the end goal of reaching the Online Generation. 

I picked up the phone and called David Watson, one of the major leaders of offline Gospel Planting Movements, to talk about some of the characteristics and values of influential leadership.  David made several observations, but five really stuck out.  

Influential leaders are valuable to different networks at different levels.

I grew up watching leaders and emerging leaders of Church Planting Movements.  I’ve seen them lead high-level meetings and I’ve seen them have lunch with brand new church planters.  I’ve seen them make decisions that involve several partners working toward a common goal and I’ve seen them sit in a room listening to the stories of five men who just want to save their people with the Gospel.  In each case, the influential leader worked to help each network – big and small – think through what was necessary for them to reach their people with the Gospel.  Their official role in the discussions didn’t matter, the influential leader led from the position they were given at that moment in time.  Consequently, they became valuable to many networks, on many levels, and helped them accomplish great things over time. 

Influential leaders become successful when they help others become successful.

All the influential leaders I know do not consider themselves successful until the people they lead and mentor are successful.  In terms of replication, leaders in Gospel Planting Movements are not successful until the person they are discipling is discipling someone else.  Influential leaders do not have to be on stage receiving accolades.  Instead, they get tremendous pleasure out of seeing someone they’ve mentored being recognized for their hard work and success. 

Influential leaders have the ability to accurately assess the situation and adapt on the fly. 

I cannot tell you how many meetings start with one purpose and end having accomplished something completely different!  Good influential leaders are masters of reading situations and quickly adjusting their approach.  

They don’t get flustered by sudden and unforeseen change.  I’ve actually been in the room where this has happened.  I’ve watched them mentally step back, reassess, and begin asking questions that help them get a better picture of what is going on.  Once they understand the currents in the room, they get the conversation moving again by suggesting alternative approaches or throwing out ideas for group consideration. 

Influential leaders establish high levels of relational accountability. 

This point is really hard to picture, especially if you’ve been the victim of domineering and unpleasant accountability systems.  These relationships look different depending on the network and role the leader has within that network.  They focus on accountability to obey God’s Word and encourage replication in all areas.  What I’m talking about may be best framed by the following questions, “What are you learning from God’s Word?  How are you applying it within your network?  Who are you discipling?  Who are they discipling?  How can I help?” 

Influential leaders have the ability to compartmentalize. 

Since they work across multiple networks, and in different capacities within those networks, influential leaders have the ability to focus on the network at hand.  They cannot allow relationships with other people and networks to unduly influence their role in the network they are in at the moment.  They must maintain confidences across networks.  They accept a lesser role in one network even while they have a higher role in another.  They have to remember their role in each network and function within that role while they are in that network.  

To top it off, they have to remember the ultimate goal of their activity in multiple networks – to catalyze Gospel Planting Movements that result in millions (Not an exaggeration!) coming to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. 

The Future of Online Ministry Depends on Leadership 

As I look forward, I think online leaders must function at higher levels of leadership than originally anticipated.  As online leaders, we were thrust (or volunteered!) for roles that we knew were bigger than we were.  But I’m not sure anyone anticipated how much bigger!  I believe we must quickly develop the necessary values and skill sets to be masters of influential leadership.  

At the end of the day, I think the longevity of online ministry and church planting depends on it. 

(Church Planting Movements and Gospel Planting Movements are interchangeable terms.  I prefer Gospel Planting Movements because it focuses on the beginning action – what we do – whereas Church Planting Movements focuses on the outcome – what God does.)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jon Reid March 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I find your parenthetical statement at the end fascinating; it’s what I am just beginning to learn (and posted in “Todd Hunter: church is a byproduct”). I’m so used to saying “church planting” as a phrase describing what we do, so it will probably take some effort to unlearn. It also eliminates the artificial barrier that is put up between church members who would not identify themselves as church planters.

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