Leadership methods, approaches, and styles change. Strategies differ depending on the seasons, persons, and/or context. New books pop up on leadership and leadership in ministry constantly but some books stand the test of time. These books are classics because they focus on principles that can be applied across time, persons, and context. They focus on the principles that make methodologies successful. As the culture shifts and changes around us, what proven leadership principles remain firm and reliable? 

Leadership principles vs. methodologies

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” —(Isaiah 40:8)

5 Principles for Leadership

  1. Integrity and character are what matters most in a leader. Leadership is always about leading by example: people will pay attention to what you do, not just what you say. Leaders who put themselves before those they lead are always eventually found out and discredited. 
  2. The process of bringing people along as you lead them is incremental. It’s not a one-time event, but a slow, consistent process over time of building trust, buy-in, and willingness. When Moses led his people across the Red Sea, consider how many steps they had to take before that to get there… and how many steps they had to take afterwards to find rest in the Holy Land. 
  3. Leadership means investing in people development. It’s not about telling them what to do, but about developing and equipping them. We see how Jesus did this with the 3, the 12, the 70, and the 120. 
  4. Organizations need to be led as well as people. Good leaders create structures that allow organizations to function effectively and accomplish what they were meant to accomplish. See the example of Moses again in Exodus 18 where he appointed trustworthy leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and set up a system of delegation. 
  5. Direction in leadership comes by hearing from God. The best leaders regularly engage in listening prayer and then planning based on what they are hearing from God. Then, after steps have been taken they listen again to hear what God is saying next and make any needed adjustments. It’s a back-and-forth process of praying and planning that keeps the goal in mind as we hear from God and steer to remain on course.  

I am certain that this is not a complete list of leadership principles that have been proven consistent over time, between cultures, and across oceans. What other leadership principles can you think of? How are you ensuring that they are kept primary in your ministry’s leadership structure? 

Leadership Methodologies Measured by Principles

While leadership principles never change, leadership methods can and should change. If you are leading the way your mentor did, haven’t examined your leadership style in a while, or are feeling frustrated or ineffective as a leader, it’s time to take a hard look at effectiveness of your leadership methods. People change. Cultures change. Context changes. If you are serious about the mission of your ministry, it is essential that your leadership methods are effective.

While leadership principles never change, leadership methods can and should change. Click To Tweet

Take an honest look at your current leadership methodologies by holding them up to these timeless principles. Here are some examples of low (L), average (A), and high (H) effectiveness in each principle. Where does you land as a leader?

Integrity and character are what matters most in a leader.
  • (L) Leadership is perceived to have more perks and actual work. It is generally difficult to enlist others to accomplish unsavory tasks.
  • (A) You have thought or even said aloud, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • (H) There is no job that you have not done or aren’t willing to do to assure the health of your organization and those you serve and work alongside.
The process of bringing people along as you lead them is incremental.
  • (L) You have trouble finding the workers and leaders you need, initiatives are often abandoned due to lack of support.
  • (A) You tend toward fire before you aim and make ready—being big on vision but need to work on developing steps and the people to make that vision a reality.
  • (H) You roll out doable and measurable plans that allow people to walk in their giftedness and lead to successful initiatives.
Leadership means investing in people development.
  • (L) People often seem to not understand what you need done or are unable to accomplish what you assign them to do.
  • (A) You prefer to hire or work with people who are already trained.
  • (H) You consistently invest in the personal development of others who in turn invest developing more people.
Organizations need to be led as well as people.
  • (L) Growth in your mission or organization is stalled because your workload is larger than you can handle.
  • (A) You have structures for care in place but they need constant oversight.
  • (H) You are confident in the competence of your leaders and ministry goes smoothly in your absence.
Direction in leadership comes by hearing from God.
  • (L) You struggle to find time for prayer or feel like your prayers have been hitting the ceiling.
  • (A) You are feeling a disconnect between the mission and the events that are on the calendar.
  • (H) You regularly and consistently pray for direction, your events are marked by salvation and transformation

Principle-based leadership

Where did you land as a leader? A good way to check your answers is to measure the overall fruit produced. If you landed on the Low side, you are likely frustrated by lack of support and/or results. If you determined you are an Average leader, it is likely that your goals feel just out of reach. However, if your growing ministry consistency develops people to walk in their giftedness and they in turn develop others, it’s safe to confirm you are indeed operating on the High end of leadership.

Wherever you land, it’s always good to make sure your methods—and your people—are solidly formed in leadership principles.

In what ways can you ensure that each of the principles listed above remain present and central in you as a leader and in the leaders you develop? What leadership methods or trends are you using that are no longer working? What changes do you need to make so your leadership methodology is better rooted in effective principles?


The Leadership Difference– If you are running up against barriers that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, this is the book for you.

Leadership Skills Guides- Develop your people into leaders by meeting them where they are at and helping them take the next appropriate step. This download covers 37 skills across 6 topics and includes a leader guide and a participant guide and is meant to be worked through in a nonlinear fashion.

Leadership Multiplication Pathway- This serious is a power system to identify your purpose, focus your ministry, become an effective leader, and multiply your mission. This is great to walk through with a coach!

Photo by Keghan Crossland on Unsplash