If you go to your local bookstore or library, you’ll find shelves full of books about how to be a better leader. Many of these books can be useful as you gain the necessary skills to lead others, but sometimes, all you need is a book likely in your home right now. Even if you don’t gravitate toward any particular religion, the Bible can provide enlightening lessons on leadership through its timeless principles and moral teachings. They are lessons anyone in a position of authority would be wise to follow. Though the writings may be ancient, the insights remain relevant to our age.
Of course, you likely don’t have the time to read the Bible from cover to cover. In that case, the following Bible verses about leadership can serve as a primer to help you understand what it takes to be a leader worth following.
Scriptures on Leadership to Help You Become a Better Leader
Unless otherwise noted, the following leadership scriptures come from the New International Version (NIV).
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”Mark 10:43-45
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”Philippians 2:3-4
There was no better model of servant leadership than Jesus. He taught that true greatness comes from serving others first. Too many self-professed leaders these days get caught in the trap of serving only themselves. They use power for their own benefit. But Jesus went against the grain. He emphasized that leaders should focus first on meeting the needs of their people while empowering others. Today’s leaders build trust and respect as they serve with humility. That is how they create loyal, impassioned followers willing to do difficult things.
Leading by Example
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”Hebrews 13:7
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”Titus 2:7-8
True leadership requires setting an example. You do this by living out the behavior you wish to see in others. The early Christian leaders showed the way in their faith and conduct. Today’s leaders, whether religious or secular, can only earn credibility when they model hard work, integrity, and values. You won’t get others to do something simply by telling them to do it. You need to demonstrate it. In this way, you’ll be walking the talk instead of just repeating empty phrases.
Being a Good Steward
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”1 Corinthians 4:2
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”1 Peter 4:10
A leader has been entrusted with the oversight of people, resources, and a mission. How well you handle it all speaks to your leadership skills. If you don’t take advantage for selfish gain, you show true responsibility. Great leaders take what they have been given and make them better. That’s what being a good steward is all about. The best leaders understand that what they manage is of vital importance, and as you demonstrate your trustworthiness, more people will show faith in you as a leader.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”James 1:5
“Look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”Exodus 18:21
Leadership requires constant decision-making. A skilled leader will seek wisdom and enlightenment to guide their choices. Through prayer and counsel from others, leaders tap into divine guidance not found in mere human understanding. Even non-religious leaders recognize the limits of their knowledge and depend on wisdom broader than themselves, often through the advice of a mentor or colleague.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”Proverbs 19:20
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”James 1:22
As much as you may wish it weren’t so, you don’t have all the answers or the expertise in every area. That’s why the Bible encourages leaders to listen to the counsel of others and, perhaps most importantly, stay open to correction. Those who block out feedback and advice will find that they will inevitably make unwise choices and compromise their mission. However, when a leader embraces humility and teachability, they position their organization—and themselves—for growth.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”Habakkuk 2:2
Every organization needs a compelling vision to provide direction, inspiration, and purpose. As a leader, you have the responsibility to articulate and cast a vision for the future. Define that vision with a vision statement. Paint a vivid picture of the possibilities that await. Doing so will help you win others, bringing added energy and cohesiveness. Casting your vision in this way shows you can see ahead and communicate it effectively.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-discipline.”2 Timothy 1:7
You can’t play it safe as a leader. Leadership often requires taking bold stands, challenging the status quo, and making difficult decisions, usually in the face of heated opposition. To do this without stumbling, you must be courageous. Leaders can obtain courage from doing what is right and holding true to their core values. That’s not to say a leader must always buck consensus and collaboration, but sometimes leaders must be willing to move forward alone in pursuing their mission.
“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”Proverbs 12:22
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”Proverbs 10:9
One of a leader’s most valuable qualities is integrity. People will only entrust great responsibility to leaders they deem honest and trustworthy. When leaders don’t have integrity, the foundations of any organization begin to rot and failure is inevitable. Leaders build trust by matching their words with action and keeping their promises. Be honest in all that you do. Show transparency about your shortcomings and weaknesses. As you do so, you will demonstrate your integrity to everyone who is watching.
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”Philippians 2:4 (KJV)
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”Hebrews 12:11
Before leading others, leaders must first lead themselves well. They do this by managing their priorities and emotions, practicing self-care and discipline, and more. Self-leadership is one of the determining factors that dictates how well you can lead an organization. Are you modeling a healthy personal life while still fulfilling professional responsibilities? Do you take time to recharge? Are you living the values you preach? Get your own house in order first, then you can show others the way.
Compassion and Empathy
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”Ephesians 4:32
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”Colossians 3:12
While strength and courage have an important place in leadership, so do compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. The best leaders understand others, care about people’s needs beyond just accomplishing tasks, and cut people some slack. They have high emotional intelligence, which helps them connect with and understand others. A compassionate approach inspires devotion and flexibility from your team. When you lead with both conviction and kindness, you see the results almost immediately.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”Psalm 1:1-2
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”Proverbs 16:9
Leaders must make decisions constantly. Those decisions can be small daily choices or enormous, far-reaching options. Good leaders will understand that much still lies outside their control, but for those things within their sphere of influence, they will seek to make the best decisions. They are diligent in acquiring information so they don’t do anything blindly. Wise leaders will make their decisions through collaborative discussion and spiritual discernment.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”2 Timothy 2:2
“Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.”Psalm 110:3
As a leader, one of your goals should be to develop other leaders. Rather than keeping all the power for yourself, you should intentionally equip emerging leaders to carry on the mission. As Paul told Timothy, teach faithful people to teach others. Creating a leadership pipeline ensures your vision endures for many years to come. Mentoring and empowering young leaders expands your influence. Leaders who develop followers into leaders also build a lasting legacy.
Learning How to Lead is a Process
Don’t be frustrated if it seems like you have a lot you need to work on to become a good leader. Learning leadership skills should be an ongoing process. As long as you’re moving in the right direction, you’re making good progress. The Bible can help as you grow into a capable leader. The leadership principles taught in the Bible revolve around service, integrity, and wisdom—values relevant to today’s leaders. Secular leaders can embrace the qualities modeled by Moses, Paul, and Jesus to build credibility and lead their organizations to thrive.
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