The Leadership Challenge for Church Leaders, Part 3

Part 1 of this post series provides the background and context you need to understand my purpose in writing.

Part 2 described some of the research that led Kouzes and Posner to develop their Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s work, The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, may be one of the most important and influential works on leadership in the past 30 years. If you lead or want to, it is worth your time.

As a result of their extensive research – and extensive is an understatement – K&P discovered what they term the five exemplary practices. These are the five things that the best leaders actually do. And they do these things consistently.

If you’ve ever followed a leader who was all talk and no action, or was a “do what I say and not what I do” kind of person, you know why the first practice is so critical to effective leadership – Model the Way.

Leaders stand up for their beliefs. They practice what they preach. They show others by their actions that they live by the values they profess. They also ensure that others adhere to the values that have been agreed on. It is consistency between words and actions that build credibility. (p. 42)

At first blush, to model the way may seem as simple as leading by example. But to do it so that it has an observable positive impact on your church or small group, modeling the way involves four key elements.

  1. Determine and communicate your most important personal values. Be open about who you are. You cannot lead from someone else’s values, as hard as you might try. You must be exactly you to be an effective leader.
  2. Align those values, the values of those you are leading and the values of your church or group. That is a process.
  3. Live out those values visibly and consistently, getting feedback on how you’re doing along the way.
  4. Teach others to live their values and model the way.

When I first assumed leadership of the group I lead where I work, before my teammates heard anything else, they heard my values, which I communicate in terms of “I ASK.”


These are the values I talk about and, to the best of my ability, live. In my behaviors, appointments, meetings and communication, I always think in terms of those four primary values.

I also ask those I lead for feedback, a critical element of modeling the way, through a 360-degree performance evaluation instrument, the basis of which are those values.

K&P on receiving feedback

From page 86.

If you asked some folks from your church or group what your values are, would they be able to list three or four accurately?

I want to ensure that people know who I am at heart and then I spend time learning the same about them.

I’m sure I know what my pastor’s values are. He is passionate about intimacy with Christ, unity, loyalty, and our call to holiness. He communicates those values over and over again, often telling stories to model the way. (For Kouzes and Posner, rigorous consistency and communication are critical for a leader’s credibility, which they consider the foundation of leadership.)

So, when you think of the first of the five practices of exemplary leadership, think in terms of values, stories and consistent behavior that aligns with your clearly and oft-stated values.

When you consider the values that are your non-negotiables, what would they be? Some might be: intimacy with Christ, biblical fidelity, faithfulness to God, humor, interpersonal relationships, integrity, trustworthiness, productivity, compassionate truth telling, service, generosity, etc.

In the next post I’ll walk through the second exemplary practice.

Suggested Leadership Books

Robert Greenleaf/Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition

Kouzes & Posner/Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge (J-B Leadership Challenge: Kouzes/Posner)

Ken Blanchard/Leading at a Higher Level, Revised and Expanded Edition: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations

Michael Fullan/Leading in a Culture of Change

Patrick Lencioni/The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable is an affiliate. When you click on a link in a post and make a purchase, receives a percentage. Please know that I only endorse books that I own, have read, and recommend as helpful.

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  1. […] Part 3 explored the first practice: Model the Way. […]