The Five C’s of Mature Leaders

As what’s left of my hair turns more salt than pepper, and my dad’s face begins to appear in my mirror, I’m reflecting on what a mature leader looks like. While I love hanging out with young leaders as they navigate the unchartered waters of their ministry adventure, I am drawn more and more to seasoned veterans; men and women, still very much in the game, who’ve weathered the tough lessons of leadership. Years of leadership, however, do not necessarily lead to maturity. Some leaders become old and cynical while others become wise and hopeful. What makes the difference? Here are five marks of a mature leader?

Five “C”s of a mature leader

Courageous

King Saul’s son Jonathan knows the incredible odds against him. The enemy is a well-trained fighting machine while Israel can only muster two swords for the entire army. His father in paralyzed with fear, but Jonathan decides it is time for action. He takes the two swords and enlists his armor bearer to join him in attacking the enemy:

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

1 Samuel 14:6

Inexperienced leaders often confuse courage with fearless. Fearless says “I don’t care about the consequences, I’m going to do this.” Courage says, “I understand the possible consequences, but this is the right thing to do.” Mature leaders remain courageous even though they’ve been through very difficult circumstances. They know what it is to be afraid, but they face their well-founded fears and enter the battle anyway.

Collaborative

By the time Moses’ father-in-law showed up in the desert Moses is at the end of his rope, leading more than a million Israelites is too big a task. When Jethro suggests a more structured model Moses immediately jumps on board. Not only does he implement Jethro’s suggestion he gives him full credit for the idea in the best-selling book of all time. Moses knows the power of collaboration.

Young leaders love the idea of building what they have dreamed about. They have a vision for exactly what the new organization will look like, what the values will be, how it will function. They won’t build it alone, they will recruit other leaders to carry out their unique vision.

Mature leaders know that’s not how the world works, at least not the healthy world. A strong organization is built on the collaborative efforts of a team of leaders working on a common mission. The leader guides the team down the river, but he doesn’t choose the course alone.

Confident

Caleb is over 85 years old when he approaches Joshua to demand his allotment of land. He spent 40 years in the desert waiting for the rebellious previous generation to die and then five years fighting the inhabitants of Canaan. Now he is ready for one more battle:

I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.

Joshua 14:11, 12

Young leaders can be arrogant, they boast about what they think they can do based on very little evidence. Mature leaders are confident; they understand the gifts and abilities God has given them and they know how to use those gifts and abilities. They never brag, they simply state what they know to be true. When Caleb says, “I will drive them out…” it’s not an empty boast, he is standing on many years of experience.

Caring

It is fascinating to follow the Apostle Paul‘s maturing leadership through the book of Acts as well as Paul’s letters. Early in his ministry Paul rejects a young leader named Mark because he couldn’t keep up on Paul’s first missionary journey. Paul doesn’t have time to develop B and C leaders, he is on a mission from God. As Paul matures, however, he learns the value of loving and developing younger leaders. He even changes his mind about Mark and gives this instruction in his final letter to Timothy:

Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

2 Timothy 4:11

Paul learned that leadership is much more than accomplishing a mission. Leadership is about caring for other leaders, developing them, helping them back up and getting them back in the game. As I get older I’m finding the care and feeding of younger leaders to be the most satisfying aspect of leadership.

Content

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6 that “godliness with contentment is great gain”, but we see the opposite of this demonstrated in the life of Solomon. The wisest man to ever live never learns the simple lesson of contentment. His life is marked by a constant desire for more and in the end he dies a miserable man.

Young leaders always believe that contentment is just around the corner. When the church grows to 200, 500 or 1000. When we can hire more full-time staff. When I can make enough money so my wife doesn’t have to work. The mature leader knows, while these are all great milestones, contentment is never around the corner. If he isn’t content now he won’t be content then.

There is a difference, however, between resignation and contentment.

  • Resignation says “I’m not happy here, but why should I try to go there.”
  • Contentment says “I can be happy here, but why not try to go there?”

Paul says it best:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:10b-13

My hope as I watch the years tick past is that I am becoming more and more of a Five C Leader. What Five C Leaders do you know?

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