Three Keys to Generating Trust

Everyone agrees that we want to be able to trust our leaders. If we don’t trust you, we won’t follow you…at least not for long. So how does a leader go about garnering the trust of those she is attempting to lead?

1. Ambition


The fact that we want ambition in our leaders is counterintuitive for some because we too quickly assume ambition is for self. But think of it this way, how would you like to follow a pastor who says, “I don’t really see God doing much around here but that’s okay because all I really want is to bide my time until Christ returns.” A leader must have some sort of holy discontent that drives them to a deep seated ambition to see God at work in the world. The exact nature of the discontent is as varied as the leaders, but it must be there if trust is to be generated.

2. Competence

Be careful with this one. Too many assume that a leader must be competent in every aspect of a ministry. Or, perhaps more accurately, too many want the leader to be competent at whatever aspect of the ministry they care about the most. But the competence that matters most for a leader is leadership competence. A leader must be constantly growing as a leaderFrom there, the leader needs to be good at whatever aspect of the role they focus on. For example, some pastors are horrible at pastoral care and yet they still feel the need to make every hospital visit themselves. Do your people a favor and delegate that job. My team knows I’m good at vision, design, and fundraising so they free me up to focus my energy there. They also know that I’m horrible at execution, i.e., actually getting stuff done, and they expect me to get out of their way so they can execute.

3. Integrity

I have talked about this in another post Church Vs. Secular Leadership, integrity goes beyond moral character. I don’t want to belabor the point here except to say that there must be consistency between what you say, how you act, and how people perceive your values. Leaders who excel in ambition and competence but lack integrity ultimately fail in the long run, despite stunning short term success. More importantly, while a lack of ambition or competence makes you less effective, a lack of integrity makes you destructive.



Warren Bennis wrote in On Becoming a Leader that “full, free self-expression is the essence of leadership.” I found the comment a bit obnoxious when I first read it, thinking that it invited leaders to be self-absorbed, but upon reflection, I think he’s on to something. This post will briefly define terms, getting at the ‘why’ of each point.

What Bennis means by ‘self-expression’


1.  Know who you are

Much has been written on the need for a leader to be self-aware. In ministry, it’s pretty obvious that, if you haven’t taken the time to take your own gifts and passions seriously the odds of ending up in the wrong role are high. Having the wrong people in the wrong roles is damaging to the mission of the local church.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses

A leader must not only know their own strengths and weaknesses but must also have the ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of others in order to create an environment of maximum effectiveness.

3. Know how to use strengths and mitigate weaknesses

One of the quickest paths to ineffectiveness is to attempt to shore up your weaknesses. Focus on doing what only you can do and manage around your weaknesses. As a leader, be aware that if you continually attempt to place others in situations that don’t fit their gifts or passions, calling on them to pull up their bootstraps and ‘just get the work done,’ you are driving them to frustration and burnout.

4. Know what you want

Too often we are vague with what we want or we’re too willing to let others tell us what we want. The more specific we can get with what we want the better. ‘I want to see people get saved’ vs. ‘I want to see youth get saved’ vs. ‘I want to see a team of passionate adults trained to reach youth. ‘The more vague we remain the more likely we are to flounder.

5. Know why you want it

Knowing why you want what you want will help shape how you go about achieving your goal. A youth pastor who simply loves spending time with kids will operate differently than a youth pastor motivated by seeing whole families. They both want to see kids know Jesus. In other words, what they want is the same. But the differing motivations will shape how they go about seeing kids come to Christ. One might spend time mentoring kids in a one-on-one setting while another might work on developing teams of adult volunteers to help parents engage in the life of their teens. You have to operate out of your motivations to be effective.

6. Know how to communicate


It’s not rocket science to figure out that you’ve got to be able to communicate well if you’re to have any chance of getting a team together to accomplish a vision.

7. Know how to achieve your goals

This is where wisdom kicks in. Wisdom is often defined as ‘right living’ because it demands that we be able to take ‘good thinking’ and turn it into ‘good action.’ This extends beyond moral issues and into best leadership practices.

Why self-expression is important

1. Your life matters

When scripture talks about the ‘fear of Yahweh’ it’s telling you to take seriously the fact that God will bring everything into judgment, good or bad (see Ecc 12:12-14). It seems that God cares what you do. A leader has a profound awareness that what we do matters.

2. God has called you to something

I don’t mean God gives every person a burning bush experience, but he has gifted you with strengths, gifts, and passions. Steward them.

3. Self-expression means using your gifts

Peter said, “Everyone should use whatever gifts he’s been given to serve others, faithfully dishing out God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10) Using the gifts you’ve been given is part of self-expression.

4. Expressing yourself allows you to let go of proving yourself

The desire to prove yourself is inherently a follower skill that involves living up to and exceeding the expectations of others, whether real or perceived. Those seeking to prove themselves are being driven, not leading.


Seek to Understand First

The basic principle here is that we need to seek to understand others before we try to make ourselves understood. This is often difficult for believers because we are convinced (rightly so) that we have something everybody should want. To us, it doesn’t matter what someone else believes because we already know that Jesus is the answer.

The problem is that we build walls between ourselves and others by not seeking to understand them prior to sharing the gospel. We’re already convinced they’re wrong and need to accept our truth. However, the lack of empathy we display prevents us from having a voice in the lives of others. Unfiltered and on the corporate level, this can quickly become the local church remaining entirely unaware of the felt needs or struggles of the community we are trying to reach.


This struck home to me recently while visiting with a wealthy philanthropist. Because of his business acumen and financial success, he had it in his mind that he already knew what the community he was trying to impact needed. The problem was that he was dumping money (lots of money) into programs that didn’t work and weren’t having the impact he wanted because he had not taken the time to ask people living in the community what they felt their needs were.

Now, I know it isn’t always this simple. There’s a famous quote of Henry Ford saying, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said faster horses.” There are in fact times when we do know better what someone needs than they do. It still doesn’t negate the problems that arise when we don’t take the time to listen and package our solutions in a way that makes sense to the people in our lives.

model ford + horse.png

Ford still needed to tell people that he could get them from point A to point B more quickly than they could imagine. He was solving the problem in a way they couldn’t possibly anticipate. In the same way we need to be diligent to offer faith in Christ as a solution to the felt needs of others; something that demands also taking the time to understand before seeking to make Christ understood.

What Makes a Good Leader (and does it really matter?)


We’re all looking for good leaders, even those of us that might be considered leaders are looking for someone to lead us. But what are we looking for? What marks a leader as good or bad? Does it really matter?

Oh it matters. It so matters.

The Old Testament is riddled with examples of why the quality of your leader matters and it all comes down to this:

As the leader goes, so goes the nation.

Let that sink in for minute, because it’s still true today.

Two Qualities of Good Leaders

Good leaders possess two major qualifications: character and competence. One without the other is no good. We see this when we look at Moses in his early days, full of character but lacking the competence to keep up with the demands of the job. Thankfully Mt. Sinai happened, Moses learned to delegate, and went on to be a great leader.

Was Wisdom Really What Solomon Needed?

When Solomon took the throne God gave him permission to ask for anything. Whoa. Not sure about you, but I could come up with a few things. Solomon—he asked for wisdom. Well played. God responded favorably and granted Solomon the discerning heart he asked for and wealth and honor. Throughout 1 Kings, we see Solomon acquire riches beyond his wildest imagination. Chariots, shields of hammered gold, a personal zoo—these were crazy riches in the Ancient Near East. Did I mention his 700 wives and 300 concubines? It would be easy to think, “Wow, God really blessed Solomon!”

Are We Missing the Real Message for Leaders?

See, in Deuteronomy 17 God gave some pretty specific guidelines for the king who would rule over the nation. Those guidelines warned a king not to take a great number of horses, not to take many wives, and not to accumulate large amounts of gold and silver. Oops. Solomon just happened to do all of those. While we thought we were reading about Solomon’s blessings, what we were really reading was Solomon’s descent off the deep end. Solomon had competence but his character couldn’t contain his success. He allowed his heart to be dragged in different directions and to other gods. As a result, his nation was split. As the leader goes, so goes the nation.

Let’s be on the lookout for leaders with both competence and character, leaders who will stay true to God’s directions and who will guard their hearts from the many gods that compete for a piece of it. Better yet; let’s be those leaders. Let’s hold fast to God’s promises for his people, fine tune our craft, and ask for God’s wisdom and discernment.

Character and competence—go find it. Go live it.