7 Characteristics of Kingdom Leaders Who Finish Well

In my previous post, we discussed the shocking reality that most leaders do not finish well. Building upon the work of Dr. Clinton, I want to briefly examine seven characteristics of Kingdom leaders that enable them to fight the good fight of faith and finish well:

1. They maintain a vibrant, interactive relationship with God.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15–16)

Even as the scope and influence of Jesus’ ministry expanded, Jesus prioritized his relationship with the Father above that of serving, ministering, and working. As his followers, we must follow the model of Jesus. Intimacy with God rather than ministry for God must remain the focus of our lives if we want to finish well.

2. They continually seek to be transformed into the image of Jesus in every area of their lives.

“And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

In today’s world, an avalanche of leadership material (such as books, trainings, and courses) provide great wisdom to instruct a person how to become a more effective leader.

However, it is not enough to strive to be an effective leader; we must also become a transformed leader.

Acquiring the valuable skills of a leader without the transformation of our hearts into the character of Jesus will ultimately sabotage our leadership.

Also, many of the young leaders I work with seek to emulate popular leaders of our culture. We can certainly learn from the stories and examples of other leaders, but we must not cut and paste another leader’s style, personality, and life message into our own lives. Instead, we must allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into the authentic leader whom God has designed us to uniquely be.

3. They remain lifetime learners as followers of Jesus.

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13)

Even as Paul neared the final chapters of his life, he continued to learn and grow. If we are going to finish well, we must continually pursue personal growth. Nearly all the leaders I work with understand the value for personal growth; however, in the beginning, very few leaders have an intentional, actionable plan for their own development.

If we stop learning today, we will stop leading others tomorrow.

4. They are rooted in God’s fierce and passionate love for them and securely lead out of their spiritual identity as a child of God.

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)

As leaders, it is easy for us to fall into the temptation to base our relationship with God on our performance.

Many leaders wake up one day and discover that they have gradually replaced their identity as a son or daughter of God with a false identity based upon their success, position, and accomplishments.

If we are going to finish well, we must allow our identity to be determined by who God declares us to be in Jesus. As leaders, we must daily embrace the revelation that “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it” (Brennan Manning).

5. They live courageously by walking in faith and trusting God.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

As leaders, we must trust God and be willing to step out into the adventure that Jesus calls us to, especially when life does not make sense. Rather than living in fear, comfort, security, and our desire for control, we place our trust, confidence, and faith in God and take risks.

One of the most convicting quotes God has used in my life is from Oswald Sanders:

“A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.”

6. They prioritize coaching, mentoring, and spiritual direction for themselves.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” (Proverbs 13:20)

If we are going to finish well, we must enlist the help of wise guides to walk with us and help us navigate our journey. God did not call you to walk alone.

RELATED: How To Fight the Good Fight and Finish Well (Part 1 of 4)

7. They raise up others by discipling and empowering them to be Kingdom leaders.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV)

Jonathan Martin says it the best, “The mark of truly great leaders is not found in the vast army of people following them, but rather it is found in those few that they push up and beyond themselves – to do even greater things than they. These are the servant leaders that impact the lives of future generations for good.”

If we are going to finish well, then we must create an empowerment culture, where rather than trying to keep the kingdom to ourselves and being the “great leader,” we give the kingdom away to others by being the “great servant.”

Making it personal

In my coaching, I encourage leaders to set aside time to review these seven characteristics and honestly answer the following questions in the presence of the Holy Spirit:

  1. What is the focus of my life: work and ministry for Jesus or intimacy with Jesus?
  2. Am I trying to emulate other leaders or am I letting Jesus transform me to be the authentic leader God designed me to be?
  3. What is my plan for personal growth?
  4. Where am I finding my identity – in Jesus or in my leadership, performance, etc.?
  5. Where am I allowing fear or the desire for comfort and security to impede my leadership?
  6. Who is helping to guide me in my journey?
  7. Who am I raising up and empowering to lead?

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.