The Four Levels of Leadership: Part 1

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-agape and 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.

This is the first of a two-part series from the Mentoring Leaders Storehouse. Come back tomorrow for part 2!

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