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Rick Warren

Plenty of highly charismatic leaders have bombed out and failed because they lacked character, which trumps charisma every time. You don’t have to have charisma to be a leader. You do have to have character—credibility—because leadership is influence, and if you don’t have credibility nobody is going to follow you.

While your reputation is about what people say you are, character is who you really are. D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark when nobody is looking.” In 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Paul lays out the necessary characteristics for church leadership. He never addresses having a robust résumé, having gone to the right seminary or having a magnetic public persona. He talks about character traits.

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. There is no one particular leadership personality. In fact, there are many. You don’t have to be outgoing to be a leader. God wants to use your personality.

Paul was a choleric. Peter was a sanguine. Moses was a melancholic. Abraham was a phlegmatic. They are as different as night and day. God used them all.

The fact is, you will burn out if you try to imitate somebody else’s personality. If you want to be a leader, don’t say, “I want to be like … ,” and pick a model. If you try to imitate their personality, you will most likely burn out. All leaders are very different; there is great diversity. What great leaders do have in common is credibility and character. All great leaders have character. Sometimes a person gets into leadership without character, and then those character flaws cause their downfall.

Hebrews 13:7-8 says, “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” This passage gives us three characteristics of good leaders:

  • They have a message worth remembering. When they talk, people listen. “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.” Evidently, there is something worth remembering there.
  • They have a lifestyle worth considering. “Consider the outcome of their way of life.” Does their walk match their talk? Does their life match what they say they are?
  • They have a faith worth imitating. Imitate their faith.”

If you want to be a good leader, you need to develop a message worth remembering—Do I understand and articulate the gospel clearly? What is my life message? What does God want to say to the world through me?—have a lifestyle worth considering and have a faith worth imitating. That’s all character.

Written by Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

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