To lead people effectively, a leader needs to understand how the gospel should inform their leadership. A primary element of such leadership involves listening to where a person is and communicating where Jesus wants them to go in a gracious yet challenging way. Leaders listen and speak. A biblical leader helps people process through the appetites and affections of their hearts, provides doctrinal and biblical content, and gives tangible steps of forward obedience. As this happens, the leader takes on three roles: teacher, shepherd, and coach. They instruct in doctrine, help shape character, and offer practical wisdom regarding action.
“Are writers leaders?” My instinct says, “Yes.” Writers can lead people for good or ill, and Christian writers can lead people either to or away from God. But instinct isn’t enough to validate an opinion. Opinions require some foundation for them to be not only believable but also arguable, defensible. I can say writers are leaders, but if I can’t point to reasons why that is, I’d be better off lapsing into silence.
Fortunately, I’ve done some thinking on the question and devised two ways to approach it, particularly as the question relates to Christian leadership. Other avenues exist, of course, but I’ve chosen two to keep things simple and to prevent rambling for an age. The first perspective comes from examining a biblical figure; the second, from literature itself.
Most leaders have, at one point or another, experienced the fear of failure. Ed Catmull, the recently-retired president of Pixar and Disney Animation, says that we should have an even greater fear of being a leader who avoids failure at all costs. In his wonderful book on creative leadership, titled Creativity, Inc., Catmull states that “mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.”
Avoiding failure inevitably results in stagnation. We do the same old thing over and over again because it has proven to work. But innovation and growth require a degree of risk. The most successful leaders experience and learn from failure on a regular basis. To quote Catmull again, “If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: you are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy … dooms you to fail.”