In the New Testament the Apostle Paul says that God has gifted some people to lead. Understanding this gift can be fairly confusing since many Bible translations use a different word for the gift. For instance, in the NIV it is called the gift of “administration.” In the King James Version it is the gift of “governments.” In the Holman Christian Standard Bible it is the gift of “managing” (1 Cor. 12:28).
The Greek word here is kybernēsis and is derived from a nautical term, which simply means to steer. Of course, since context determines meaning, most of the Bible translators understand this steering to indicate some sort of governance, administration, or management function.
The person who steers the ship then is a leader who has at least three distinct functions:
Understanding of the Environment (Analysis)
Though I am not a sailor, it is quite obvious that the person who steers the ship must understand the seas, be able to discern the natural forces which might affect the trip, and be aware of the resources that he has available to assist him in getting the ship to its destination. The good leader understands the environment he works in; he continually analyzes the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the ministry.
Charting the Course (Planning)
An effective sailor must be able to chart the course to his desired destination. Too often leaders see a picture of a preferable future for their churches or ministries, but fail to plan the necessary steps to arrive at that destination. They do not chart a discernable course and wonder why their ministries get lost.
Adjusting Course in a Changing Environment (Execution)
I am sure you have heard stories of sailors who were unprepared for a storm which came upon them. The ship-master executes with great precision the necessary adjustments to deal with both the expected and unexpected challenges that will eventually confront them. The good sailor isn’t good because he knows what to do in calm waters, but is, instead, good because he is able achieve the desired results no matter what changes in the environment around him. So too, the good leader will understand that the execution of the plan in a dynamic environment is as important as discerning the correct plan in the first place.
If leadership is a gift that God gives to some, it is still a gift that must be developed. The Apostle Paul instructs all to “try to excel” in the gifts that God has given us (1 Cor. 14:12). The good leader like the good sailor is a life-long learner of his craft.
© Dr. Paul Dordal, 2009