The Four Levels of Leadership

Leadership comes in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes you’ll cycle through one level of leadership on your way to the next, but be careful not to get stuck in a substratum of leadership along the way!

Let me explain…

The qualities of leadership are not obvious in its early stages. Many similar characteristics cause leadership evaluators and students of leadership development to miss crucial benchmarks that must be caught early on. In this way, mentors can guide emerging leaders through the beginning stages toward the deeper capacities of influence.

People with a need to be in charge can easily be mistaken as “leaders.” The adroit use of verbal skills may be seen as “leadership” when it may simply be refined immaturity or clever self-promotion.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 of this fact:

  • “…there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”

There are four levels of leadership, and the first three have been given the capacity to hold you in its grasp. Let’s look at them all, and then we will view each individually.

  • Control Leadership
  • Corporate Leadership
  • Character-based Leadership
  • Christ-like Leadership

Let’s take some time to look at each of the four.


This is the lowest level of leadership is characterized by the need for control. It will be typified by the use of anger, verbal domination, fear, and if necessary, physical threat. These distinctions are more obvious in men, however women are not immune. A competitive drive for value or control will motivate the use fear (“Don’t forget who’s in charge here!”) partiality, (“I got your back!”), moods, or even subtle sexual innuendos marked by preferential treatment and favoritism.

Those caught in this level will refine the art of control. The more they excel in polishing this aptitude, the harder it is to detect. Unless these tendencies are recognized and its flaws corrected, it will cause a dysfunctional team, and what launched the ministry in the beginning will destroy it in the end.


This second level of leadership uses a better quality of leadership, but if it is not monitored closely, it can become a poor but permanent substitute for spiritual disciplines, biblical insights, and Spirit led decision-making.

Best business practices, highest and best use, collaboration, trends, bottom line, economic feasibility, and other buzzwords became normal parlance in spiritual circles.

Four decades ago, zealous banner wavers introduced a new style of church leadership. Harvest-minded evangelists and passionate crusaders started off with well-meaning expectations. They skipped the investment of formal education for fear that the Lord’s return may come sooner that expected. This urgency fueled a flood of new initiatives without the academic rigor or financial thoroughness. “God led me …” trumped all fiscal wisdom. “God said” became the highest court and anything that smacked of “business” was seen as unspiritual and worldly.

Two decades later, the Christians had enough of sloppy-agapeand other leftovers from the Jesus movement. Thus the introduction of business acumen was a welcome breath of fresh air. Words like profit, advancement, innovating, moving ahead, cutting edge, increase, excellence, and forward movement became the mantra in conferences and seminars. It helped to stabilize the Church and to bring critical thinkers back to the spiritual tables.

But like ants at a picnic, something else found its way into the Church: Mammon. Mammon can be defined as money that has been laced with the propensity to control.

Compromise for the sake of the bottom line trumped God’s wishes, but this level of leadership found its Achilles heel when selfless sacrifice and self-denial were required. The corporate level of leadership cringed at anything that projected an image of weakness or a lack of business acumen. Economy, self sustaining programs, and the profit and loss became the gods of the new century.


At the turn of the 21st Century, the fault lines of Corporate Leadership began to surface. It was in the marketplace that this discrepancy was first noticed. Christian businessmen blew the trumpet (or the whistle) and began to herald character and morals in business. John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, Steven Covey, Jim Collins, Pat Lencioni, and several others became spokespersons for character-based leadership.

Integrity, teamwork, honesty, trust, and marital fidelity were proclaimed as success principles. Christians and non-Christians alike agreed on character-based principles as the only way to sustain success in any endeavor.

Churches were the first to adopt this style of leadership, and thousands bought into Character-Based Leadership without abandoning the corporate. But even that began to lack something. It was moral and upstanding, but the eternal sparkle was noticeable missing. Sold out seminars and conferences became the norm, but still there was an elephant in the room.

Allow me to challenge you further to the greatest level of leadership. You can’t stop at any of these first three levels. It will be like the house in Luke 11:25 that was “swept and put in order,” yet it wasn’t enough to keep the enemy of our sols at bay. It had no eternal power or authority to transform.


The highest and most sustaining level of leadership is Christ like leadership. This is where you see beyond what is seen and you hear beyond what is heard. It is developing inner ears and spiritual eyes to discern motives that lie behind actions. It holds the foresight to discern the results or consequences of current decisions. It is committed to the best not only in oneself, but in the lives and futures of others. It takes into account eternal significances.

It’s the difference between and amateur chess player and one who sees six or seven moves in his head before he makes one of his own.

Jesus understood motivations and future results.

  • And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4)
  • “And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.'” (Matt. 12:25)

This level of leadership must tap into the gifts of the Holy Spirit found in 1 Cor. 12. These gifts are required in order to operate in the fourth level of leadership. Here are a few examples of the nine gifts offered:

  • Faith: being able to see what others cannot.
  • Word of Knowledge: Knowing the reasons why certain events happen.
  • Word of Wisdom: Having the courage to act on this knowledge for the good of others.
  • Tongues: Speaking as Jesus would speak.
  • Interpretation of Tongues: Understanding the difficult things of God and being able to articulate that to others in a way they can understand.

These gifts are crucial to leadership in the 21st Century church and in the 21st Century family, but it is only available to those who hang around with the Author of Christ like Leadership. It comes only with a non-compromising devotion to God and His Word. It is cultivated through a daily, ongoing time at His feet as Mary did in Luke 10:39-40

  • [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations…

It is granted to those who love to walk in His presence and posture themselves in such a way that their hearts are consistently awaiting His audience. It includes business sense. It welcomes critical thinkers. His presence congratulates students of impeccable morality, but in and of itself is incomplete.

Acts 4:13 gives it all away:

  • Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

Leadership in the 21st Century that gains God’s favor will require more than business savvy. It is bestowed on those who will be so unashamed as to walk with a consistent, unfettered relationship with Jesus, meeting with Him dally and talking with Him constantly. It is one of a reckless abandon the cause of Christ rather than to an economic bottom line. It is the willingness to invest and “lose” temporal money in order to gain eternal souls. It is the unabashed love for one’s spouse and family. It is learning people skills without learning people pleasing. It is a willingness to lay down ones own life and profit for the eternal benefit of others.

When the world is crying out for leaders, heaven is calling those who want to lead like Christ.

Be one.

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