What characteristics do you think define good leaders? Friendliness? Approachability? Good planning skills? Wisdom?
All of those are nice. All of them are essential for good leadership. The most important thing, however, from both a Christian view and from a business point of view, is something else.
The most important quality of leaders is that they work themselves out of a job.
Leadership, by definition, requires unselfishness. It requires a cause outside of one's own ego. It requires a loyalty to someone or something that is greater than oneself.
If leaders will take time to notice, they will realize that true leadership is really about people.
- Leaders in the pro-life movement lead in order to save the lives of babies, not because they want recognition for their great leadership.
- Leaders in the business world lead because they have a responsibility to their employees, their shareholders, and their customers. At the end of the day, every business is about people.
- But why do leaders in the church lead?
This is a tough question.
The church is a unique environment. People in the church are already inclined to adore things other than themselves, because adoring God is one of the main points of Christianity. So after you adore God, it's easy to adore our Christian leaders as well.
When the leader gains people's trust and adoration, fame and status and authority often come too. There's nothing wrong with that. We should want our leaders to be blessed.
Nevertheless, leaders on every level have to be careful. Somewhere along the way, it's easy to forget that leadership was never about us.
I teach a Sunday School class at my church. In that class, I'm a leader, even though it's a very small pond.
But what happens if people decide that I'm the best thing since sliced bread? What happens if people start gushing all over me when they come to class? Is that fun? Sure. Nobody ever hated it when people love them.
But what happens if I let those things become my purpose?
- What happens if I forget that it's not about me preparing a lesson so I can get the best reactions possible?
- What happens if I start trying to behave in such a way as to get more adoration?
- What happens if I start doing things just to further my own agenda?
- What happens if I treat my people (who are all my friends as well as class members) as stepping stones to something bigger and greater?
- What happens if I see my people as minions, whose job it is to carry out my agenda?
Not only would I hurt my people by doing that, but I would also lose my purpose and effectiveness. At the end of the day, I might have built a great class, group, program, or sphere of influence, but if I have made leadership about me, then I have wasted my time.
Because leadership is not about me.
Leadership is about raising other people up to become who God intended them to be, in the place to which God has called them.
- True leadership empowers and equips your people.
- True leadership makes your people even better at things than you are.
- True leadership finds each person's gift and teaches them how to function in it 100% effectively.
True leaders work themselves out of a job.
In every place I lead, I want that to be my story. I want to look around one day at the people I have raised up, and I want to see them being so awesome at who they are that they no longer need me to lead them.
I want to be proud of their awesomeness, not just my own. I want spiritual fruit in my people. I want their greater works to be my legacy.
Because “PEOPLE are your fruit that remain.” 
So if you are a leader, are you working yourself out of a job?
- Are you identifying the gifts of every person around you, and doing what you can to help develop those people to walk in their gifts?
- Are you willing to share the limelight for a moment, so that you can do the more necessary work of spiritual fathering?
- Are you willing to equip people, just like they were your own sons and daughters, and let them do the work of the ministry?
The answer to those questions had better be “yes,” because, no matter what age or stage of leader you are, leadership has never been about you. Leadership is about raising up fathers and sons, who raise up fathers and sons, who raise up fathers and sons.
So go ahead, leaders. Take the plunge. Pour your life into other people. Equip them. Empower them. Send them farther and faster into their calling than you can go yourself.
You may work yourself out of a job, but you'll work yourself into a legacy.