Some leaderships have been characterized as good and have been used as challenges for others to emulate. This description however raises an obvious question: upon what criteria were these leadership characterized as good? It is certain that some leaders, whose leadership does not fall within this category, have good qualities that others can emulate. For this reason it is important not only to know that a leadership has been characterized as good but also to know the characteristics that qualifies it as good. According to Anthony D’souza, leadership involves an inter-relationship between three elements:
(a) The quality skills and needs of the followers
(b) The need and expectations of the group
(c) The demands or requirements of the situation.1
It can be observed from what D’souza has said that the first element deals with the personality of the leader; the second, his followers and the third, the task to be accomplished.
On the basis of what has been said the characteristics of good leadership will be identified under the following headings:-
(a) The personal characteristics of the leader
(b) The characteristics of the followers
(c) The leader’s task or mission. Selected leaders in the Bible, whose leaderships
have been classified as good will form the basis of this presentation.
(a) The Personal Characteristics of the Leader
It can be observed from scriptures that God was very selective in choosing leaders for specific tasks. God specifically chose Nehemiah to spearhead the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall; Moses to bring the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt; Paul, to pioneer missionary work to the Gentiles and David, whose kinship would have a lasting dynasty, to replace Saul. These men certainly had qualities that were essential for good leadership. God recognized these qualities in them as potentials when He chose them.
In this section some of the qualities of leaders mentioned above will be discussed in a more general way. The goal is to show that it has been recognized that the good personal qualities of leaders, when applied to leadership are characteristics of good leadership.
In reflecting on the book of Nehemiah, John White said that “the book of Nehemiah serves primarily to unfold for us part of God’s on-going plan for his people. But always it is the man, his character and his leadership that holds my interest”.2 Two important things stand out from John White’s evaluative statement about Nehemiah’s leadership that are characteristic of good leadership. The first is the character and conduct of Nehemiah himself as a leader and the second, is his leadership ability. White further commended that probably one of the reasons why Nehemiah was chosen as a cupbearer was because of a well-trained personal quality like that of a stable character. Such well-trained stable character was not just the effort of Nehemiah alone. This can be seen in the following statement – “God used Nehemiah’s active prayer life to mold him into a godly leader”.3 As a godly leader, Nehemiah was dependent upon God from whom he received his personal support and encouragement, which motivated him enough to succeed. Nehemiah achieved his ministry goal and his leadership has been characterized as good. His good character and conduct and his demonstration of leadership abilities were personal characteristics of his leadership, which made him succeed.
Moses’ childhood training as an adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter was tailored towards leadership. The incidence, which led to his escape from Egypt, revealed that he recognized his leadership qualities before God called him to leadership. However, it took 40 years from the time of his escape from Egypt, before God called him to leadership. Joyce Peel observed that Moses learns how to be a shepherd. Long years of looking after sheep taught him the patience he was to need as leader of the cantankerous children of Israel.4 This observation by Joyce Peel shows that the personal quality of patience in Moses’ life was a characteristic of his good leadership. This quality was made evident in the life of Moses through the great challenges he faced as a leader over Israel. One example was when he came down from Mount Sinai and found the people worshiping the golden calf. He smashed the tablet inscribed with God’s commandment, and, with a rousing cry, ‘who is on the Lord’s side?’, summons the faithful Levites to a massacre.5 The next day he reproaches the people and then brokenhearted, goes back up the mountain to plead for their forgiveness.6
Patience was not the only personal quality that Moses had. But it has been used to show that good personal qualities, when applied to leadership, bring about positive results. Therefore, good personal qualities are characteristics of good leadership.