A Personal Theory of Leadership –Key Components of Leadership

If you are just joining the discussion, you may want to check out:

  • Part 1 to establish some context for this article.
  • Part 2 to see how I define leadership.

While there are many things discussed and delineated as key components of effective leadership, I must go beyond the opinions and advice of others and determine my position regarding those components. As a Christian, it is imperative to begin my discovery with the Bible. Against that standard, I can then compare the words of others and my own opinion.  According to the Bible, the components of leadership are:

influence (Proverbs 14:28)
communication (Proverbs 15:22)
vision (Nehemiah 2:17-20)
high morals (Proverbs 16:12)
integrity (Proverbs 16:13)
learning (2 Timothy 2:15)
servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28)
leading by example (John 13:15)
love (John 15:13)
(Grunlan, 2014)

(Leadership Principles, 2014)


With the biblical standards for leadership in place, I now consider those additional components found among non-biblical works, keeping in mind that leadership is leadership. Jim Collins identifies personal humility, fearlessness, unwavering resolve, and professional well as components of Level 5 Leadership (Collins, pp. 21-36) while Maxwell states that integrity is the most important ingredient of leadership. (Maxwell J. C., p. 35)  Valsania, et al identify the components of authentic leadership as self-awareness, balanced processing, moral perspective, and relational transparency. (Valsania, Moriano, Alonso, & Cantisano, 2012) Also prevalent among extra-biblical discussions of leadership were the components of influence, vision, communication, learning, servanthood, and leading by example.

From these lists, I have identified the following as key components of effective leadership: Integrity, Influence, Vision, Communication, Leading by Example, Lifelong Learning, and Servanthood.


According to Stephen Covey, integrity is more than telling the truth and leaving the right impression. It includes congruence which is exemplified by the lack of a gap between intent and behavior. In addition, integrity involves a humility that is more concerned with doing right than with being right. Finally, integrity includes the courage to do the right thing. (Covey, pp. 62-65). It is little wonder that Maxwell identified integrity as the most important component of leadership because it is the foundation upon which trust is built. Without trust, leadership cannot be effective.


“Leadership is influence. That’s it. Nothing more; nothing less.” (Maxwell J. C., p. 1) He goes on to say that “leadership is the ability to obtain followers.” The opinions of leadership experts and my own experience support his statement and the clear conclusion that without influence, there is no effective leadership. According to Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership (Position, Permission, Production, People Development, and Personhood), the more you love people, do the right things, and grow people, the more you will be able to influence and lead them. (Maxwell J. C., pp. 14-16) Thus, the extent of your influence with a particular person is directly related to the level of your relationship with that person. Therefore, the key to knowing how much influence you have with a person is to know what level you are on with that person.


While it would be easy to quote Proverbs 29:18 at this point and proclaim that “without a vision, the people perish or cast off restraint,” a recent study has revealed that to do so would be to violate the original intent of the verse which requires divine revelation. However, the old proverb of “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time” comes into play here. Blanchard states, “Leadership is about going somewhere. If you and your people don’t know where you are going, your leadership doesn’t really matter.” (The Founding Associates and Consulting Partners of The Ken Blanchard Companies, p. 17) Leadership must matter or it is not leadership. Therefore, vision is a required component of leadership.


According to Nancy Pace-Miller, “Communication is the relationship” and leadership is about relationships so leadership is about communication. Without communication, a leader will never be identified, followers will never be informed or influenced, and vision will never appeal or compel. Moses realized the importance of communication on his leadership. Even though he was hand-picked by God to bring deliverance to the children of Israel, he was not a public speaker. He had the vision and influence, but he did not have the communication skills needed to effect change. Therefore, he chose Aaron to handle the PR side of things. In actuality, this probably damaged his authority as a leader and it is doubtless that it put Aaron in some uncomfortable spots as he stood before the people and proclaimed that “Moses said that God said . . .” Another example of the importance of communication in leadership can be seen in the fact that Jesus did not just walk by, He communicated, “Come, and follow me.” Who is to say what would have happened if He had not communicated effectively. Being an effective communicator is key to leadership but communication does not have to be eloquent to be effective.

Leading by Example

Paul said, “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (Tyndale House Foundation, p. 1 Cor 11:1) and The Leadership Challenge identifies “Model the Way” (Kouzes & Posner, pp. 16-17) as one of the key components of effective leadership. Personally, I have always admired leaders who lead by example and have always striven to do the same. I have little use for hot air in leadership and am a strong proponent of “do it and then talk about it” and “put up or shut up.” To put a biblical spin on this, I turn to the words of James: “show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) I believe that the general in the trenches is a more effective and influential leader than the one calling the shots back in the safe zone. A leader must be out in front leading the way.

Lifelong Learning

Darwin Smith, a Level 5 Leader according to Jim Collins, stated at his retirement that he “never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.” (Collins, p. 20) Although this statement does not directly mention lifelong learning, I believe it is definitely inferred. Because change is constant, failure to continue to learn leads to irrelevance, incompetence, inefficiency, and ineffective leadership. Lifelong learning remains focused on the goal of doing the right things in the right way at the right time. It is results oriented. Advancements in technology, theories and practices of leadership, and production and marketing methods require a leader to be a lifelong learner in order to remain effective. Rick Warren puts it this way: “never stop learning. All leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning you stop leading. Growing churches require growing pastors.” (Warren, n.d.)


The final key component of effective leadership is that of servanthood. The concept of servant leadership involves the implementation portion of the leadership equation (The Founding Associates and Consulting Partners of The Ken Blanchard Companies, p. 262) and encompasses the roadblock removal thinking of the Path-Goal Theory of Leadership. (Yukl, p. 170) Paul said that he becomes all things to all men that he may be able to win some. Jesus came as a servant. We are admonished to serve one another. Ultimately, there is no leadership without influence. Serving others always produces trust and influence. Servanthood focuses on the follower and it is the basis for effective leadership.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
Covey, S. M. (2006). The Speed of Trust. New York, NY: Free Press.
Grunlan, S. (2014, August 10). Leadership Principles from Proverbs. Retrieved from Ministry Magazine: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2007/11/leadership-principles-from-proverbs
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen, Fifth Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossy-Bass.
Leadership Principles. (2014, August 10). Retrieved from Jesus-Follower: http://www.jesus-follower.org/data/leadership/english/leadership%20principles.pdf
Maxwell, J. C. (1993). Developing the Leader Within You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
The Founding Associates and Consulting Partners of The Ken Blanchard Companies. (2010). Leading at a Higher Level: Revised and Expanded Edition – Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: BMC, Blanchard Management Corporation.
Tyndale House Foundation. (2007). Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.
Valsania, S., Moriano, L. J., Alonso, F., & Cantisano, G. (2012). Authentic leadership and its effect on employees’ organizational citizenship behaviors. Psicothema, 561-566.
Warren, R. (n.d.). My Advice to Preachers. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from Christianity.com: http://www.christianity.com/11574245/
Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership in Organizations, 8th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Incorporated.