What is important is not the “life” of the leader (no one’s life is more or less valuable than another’s), but rather, what is important is the life the leader lives, i.e. how it affects and influences others. Jesus reminded His followers that how a leader lives will serve as an example to those who follow him, and who might aspire to be like him (Luke 6:40). His own life was an example that was highly regarded (Luke 2:52). Paul urged the Corinthians to follow his example, just as he was following the Lord’s (1st Corinthians 11:1). Thus, we should carefully study the scripture to learn how the leader’s life is to be a model for others.
There are recorded in scripture several outstanding characteristics a leader would do well to imitate. The first, from Daniel’s life, is the model of conviction. Daniel would not eat of the food or wine brought from the King’s table, because it had been offered in sacrifice to an idol first. His convictions concerning the prominence of Jehovah over all other false gods (the first of the Commandments) were still strong, despite the situation he found himself in, and the pressure to acquiesce (threat of death). Later, when ordered not to pray to any other deity except the King (Daniel 6), he followed the convictions of his life, praying three times a day to God, “just as he had done before (6:10, NIV).”
The second is the model of integrity. Scripture commends David this way (Psalm 78:72). Scripture notes that David, who was being pursued by a jealous Saul, had an opportunity to end his persecution, and take the life of the King. Although he was encouraged to do so by his men, he decided against it, and spared Saul’s life because he “should not do such a thing to…the Lord’s anointed (1st Samuel 24:6, NIV).” However, he did cut off part of Saul’s robe and later offered that as proof of his integrity. Such an action moved Saul to announce that David was “more righteous” than he (24:17). David spared Saul’s life a second time, causing Saul to proclaim that David would “do great things and surely triumph (26:25, NIV).”
One further characteristic is humility. Proverbs says that it is “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud (16:19).” The Prophet Micah says that all the lord requires is that we “act justly and…love mercy and…walk humbly with your God (6:8, NIV).” Jesus reminded his followers that “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all (Mark 9:35b, NIV).” Jesus’ brother James wrote that if we humble ourselves before God, He “will lift you up (4:10, NIV).” Every great Biblical leader showed humility. Moses, when called by God to lead Israel from exile (Exodus 3:11); Gideon, when called by God to serve as judge and lead the army into battle against Midian (Judges 6). Saul (1st Samuel 9:12), David (1st Samuel 18:18) and eventually Solomon (1st Kings 3:7) all professed their unworthiness to be the instruments of God when called, as did the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus proclaimed as having no equal among those “born of women (Matthew 11:11, NIV),” professed his unworthiness to serve his Lord (Matthew 3:14).
I believe no one can effectively lead a ministry without these essential qualities.