All leaders are motivated by something or someone. It is healthy for leaders to examine their motivation and motives. It is possible to start with the correct motivation and over time to experience motivation drift to a different reason or method for leading.
Some leaders are passive leaders. They react to circumstances and situations as they happen. These leaders seldom have a plan except to put out fires and keep the peace among the followers.
Passive political leaders lead by polls. They see what the people want rather than by vision and statesmanship. Usually, these leaders go down in history as weak and fearful leaders. They just want to be liked by the majority of their followers and do what everybody wants.
These leaders are trying to lead from the back rather than the front. They may be managers, but they are not leaders. Leaders put forth a vision and a plan then take a stand to go for the goals they set. It doesn’t mean they do not get counsel, advice, and input from their team on the goal and direction they are going, but once the goal is set, they don’t waiver from it.
Performance leaders want to look good while they are leading. To these leaders, appearance is more important than it should be. How they are perceived is very important to them. They too want to be liked by those who are following them.
In a church setting, a performance leader who is a speaker is known more by how they said something and the entertainment value of what they said more than the content. People who hear them may remember the humor and fun they had while listening to the speaker, they just don’t remember what they said.
Performance leaders are very reluctant to say anything that would not be well received by the hearers, even if it is true. Their desire to be approved usually shuts down their need to tell the truth and be confrontational in any way.
The excitement of the performance whether in a small or large group becomes the focus rather than content. It is very difficult for a performance leader to accept that not everyone likes them. Their commitment to truth is not as strong as the desire to be approved. They may be leading out of insecurity.
Prophetic leadership is marked by prayer, listening to the Spirit of God, and boldly repeating what he is saying. It is intentionally leading people to God and his purposes. It is not always popular in the short term, but true wisdom is justified by her children. In the future, prophetic leadership is seen for the truth that it is.
The Bible says to speak the truth in love so we can grow (Ephesians 4:15). Mercy and truth must be balanced. If someone leans too much towards mercy, they can compromise truth. If someone leans too much towards truth, mercy can suffer. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Prophetic leadership at its core is real love for those they are leading. Passive and performance leadership are both self-serving and do not have the best interest of those being led at heart. Prophetic leadership is marked by both truth and love.
Jesus said, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NLT). The Greek word for word is rhema. It is not just what God said, but what God is saying. Several Scriptures tell us today if you hear his voice not to harden your heart. The issue is what God is saying and emphasizing today. That is prophetic teaching and prophetic leadership.
It is more important to have the correct message and direction from God than it is to communicate it perfectly. Communication skills are a great asset but it is better to have the message correct even if the method isn’t perfect.
What is God saying today and where is God leading today? Those answers only come to leaders who are praying, waiting on the Lord, and listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Once the direction is clear, the next step is having the courage to follow and speak. Not everyone will necessarily heed your voice, but that is not your problem. Look at all of the examples of Old Testament prophets who spoke from God and were rejected by the people. Wisdom is justified by her children, which means time will tell the true story. You just must have the courage to wait it out.
At the end of the day, which type of leadership you provide is dependent upon your character. Performance and passive leadership come from leaders who have insecurity and character issues. Prophetic leadership comes from leaders who want to please God more than people.
God told the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1, to speak the words that had been put into his mouth by God, “And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you.” (1:8 NLT) It took great courage for Jeremiah to say prophetically what the people did not want to hear.
God is looking for leaders who will truly love the people they are leading by speaking the truth to them. Those leaders are true prophetic leaders.