Healthy Leaders Are Authentic

by | Jan 7, 2012 | Church Leadership, Church Planting

If healthy churches need healthy leaders, what makes a healthy leader? Over the next few posts, I’m going to describe six characteristics of healthy leaders.

The first is authenticity (see my previous post for brief descriptions of the other five). Being an authentic leader means being who you really are all the time. It means that you don’t vary the essential you for different settings. While that’s easy to understand, for most of us it’s a lot harder to do. How can we be authentic leaders? Here are two things that will help.

Understand the Difference Between Character and Persona

Character is who we really are. Persona is an image that we try to project.

We naturally want to cover up our character, the real us, because we all have flaws.  The covering we put on is a persona, a new and improved version of us, that doesn’t have flaws, or at least doesn’t have flaws as serious or as numerous.  This isn’t all bad because the world isn’t ready for our unfiltered character. In fact it wouldn’t be appropriate to reveal all aspects of our character to everyone. But covering our character with a persona all the time takes a lot of energy and it’s not authentic.

So what do we do? We need to have at least one other person who we can bare our character to, someone who knows the real us completely. This is not only part of God’s plan for helping us to grow in character, it also gives us the confidence to live in character because we know that we have at least one other person who accepts us in spite of our flaws.

Live for an Audience of One

For many of us, and perhaps especially for church planters, setting and accomplishing goals is a big part of what drives us. And closely connected to setting goals is the recognition that comes from accomplishing them. Who doesn’t love to be recognized for doing something worthwhile? The problem for authentic leaders comes when the need for recognition becomes the definition of success or failure. When that occurs, we live to please others by accomplishing things that will impress them rather than living to please God by being who he made us to be.

This has huge implications when it comes to authenticity. It turns out that living for God’s approval supports authenticity; living for the approval of others doesn’t.

God isn’t interested in our accomplishments. He’s interested in our obedience.

He’s not impressed by our image. He’s delighted when we are the people he designed us to be.

Authentic leaders choose to live for an audience of one.

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Dave Alford

Dave Alford directs the Saddleback Church Leadership Academy, which provides training programs designed to equip the next generation of church leaders. Read More About Dave Alford At His Author Page