Definition of a Leader

A leader is "a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal". A mnemonic for this definition would be 3P's - Person, People and Purpose as illustrated by the following diagram.


Is leadership a position of office or authority? Or, is leadership an ability in the sense that he is a leader because he leads? We all may know or hear of people who are in positions of leadership but who are not providing leadership. A position of office is no guarantee of leadership but it helps in the sense that a leadership position usually commands a listening ear from its people and that is a good starting point for anyone who desires to be a leader.

A leader by its meaning is one who goes first and leads by example, so that others are motivated to follow him. This is a basic requirement. To be a leader, a person must have a deep-rooted commitment to the goal that he will strive to achieve it even if nobody follows him!

Joshua was such a man. He was publicly appointed to succeed Moses (Num 27:12-23). The goal was to lead the Hebrews cross over the Jordan and take the land (Josh 1:1-2) ... and that was he what he did. In his old age, there remained much land to be possessed. In Josh 24:15, Joshua summoned all Israel to gather at Shechem and challenged them to serve the Lord, putting before them his commitment ...

15 "... choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

This reminds me of the song, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"

I have decided, to follow Jesus,
I have decided, to follow Jesus,
I have decided, to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow,
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
Though none go with me, still I will follow, No turning back, no turning back!

Will you decide now, to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now, to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now, to follow Jesus? No turning back, no turning back!


A requirement for leadership is personal vision - the ability to visualize your goal as an accomplished fact; a thing already achieved.
"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."
Theodore M. Hesburgh
How do you become a leader with a purpose? You need guidance (Prov 3:5-6) and you will get it through meditation on the Word of God.
Thinking Skills

The next requirement is the realization that the goal cannot be achieved alone, without the help of others. Is there a natural grouping of people from whom you can elicit help? Or do you have to recruit your followers? In the latter, you face a greater challenge. But whatever the situation, the leader must integrate his (or the organization's) goal with his followers’ personal goals and then communicates this goal in such a way that they embrace it too and the goal becomes a common goal.

The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.
Eric Hoffer
In communicating your goal, bear in mind that it should meet the following criteria:

Achievable ... realistic yet faith stretching
Inspiring ... challenging your people to give of their best
Measurable ... quantifiable
Shared ... declaring your conviction in and commitment to the goal


He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.
To be a leader, one must have followers. To have followers, one must have their trust. How do you win their trust? Why would others trust you? Most important, are you worthy of their trust?

Why are some individuals more effective than others at influencing people?
Effectiveness in leadership has been attributed to (1) persuasion skills, (2) leadership styles and (3) personal attributes of the leader. We will explore these further in another article or two. Now, we will consider one critical element of leadership (influence) - love for people.

When Moses encountered two Hebrews fighting with each other, he tried to act as a peacemaker but they turned on him and questioned his authority over them, "Who made you ruler and judge over us?" (Exo 2:13-14). Yet some 40 years later, the Hebrews came to Moses with all their disputes and problems that he was kept busy from morning till evening (Exo 18:13-16). What had changed? Among many things, Moses led the Hebrews across the Red Sea and when the people could not drink the bitter water, Moses cried out to the Lord for a solution (Exo 15:22-25). What had not changed was Moses' identification with the Hebrews and his love for them.

In God's call to Moses ...
7 The LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings ...

10 "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt."
Exo 3:7,10
The Lord voiced His concerns ... the hard labours of the Hebrews and their mistreatment by the Egyptians ... the very same reasons that prompted Moses 40 years earlier to come to the rescue of a Hebrew and kill an Egyptian (Exo 2:11-12).

Moses came up with several excuses why he should not be the one to go and God graciously refuted all of them. We are not told why Moses finally agreed but I believe that Moses' identification with and love for the Hebrews played a critical factor in his decision.

Moses' identification with and love for the people was again seen when God declared that He was going to destroy the Israelites but would make a great nation of Moses and his descendants - the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf which they had fashioned out of their gold earrings. Moses immediately interceded for the people (Exo 32:7-14).

Moses then descended the mountain with the two tablets. His love was not "soft" ...
  1. He broke the two tablets in anger when he saw the golden calf and the dancing of the people.

  2. He burned the calf, grinded it into powder, scattered the powder over water and made the people drink it.

  3. He called Aaron to give an account of what happened.

  4. He passed judgment upon the unrepentant and the Levites killed 3000 with their swords.
30 ... Moses said to the people, "You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." He again interceded for the people requesting that his name be blotted out from God's Book (i.e., he be destroyed) if God could not forgive them (Exo 32:31-32).

After he died, the Israelites mourned Moses' death for 30 days. It is recorded in Deut 34 that
10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,

11 for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land,

12 and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
When people are convinced of your love for them and that you always have their interests upon your heart, they trust you and they will follow you up the highest mountain and into the deepest sea.

Are you his leader?

Question for Discussion

We often hear of some leaders are task-oriented or goal-oriented and others are people-oriented. As a leader, if you have to choose between people or purpose, what will you choose? Of course, real-life leadership is not so clearly defined in terms either or and in reality, a compromise is possible. But for the sake of discussion, what will you choose? Why?

Definition of a Leader   |   Leadership vs Management   |   Why Delegate & How to   |   How to Motivate   |   Main Page

Author, Title or Subject:

Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © July 2007 by Alan S.L. Wong