10 Characteristics of Future Leaders

Navigational Tools PhotoTim Elmore, in his book Habitudes: The Art of Changing Culture, says that there are 10 characteristics of future leaders. He says “future” because we live a world that is so complex and fast-paced that the old top-down model of leadership will not do. He says “future” because the way things were is not the way things will be. The future will require a different kind of leader.

So what does it take to be a “future” leader? What characteristics must he or she develop? Below are the ten characteristics with my own personal comments:

  1. Highly Relational – It’s no longer just about production and efficiency; instead, it’s about experiences and community.
  2. Interprets Culture Well – Because of globalism and the internet, the future leader must be able to identify and exegete the culture he or she is trying to influence.
  3. Emotionally Secure – This one hurts. If you want to be able to lead young, intelligent, visionary leaders, then you better have tough skin. You better know who God is, who you are, and what He has called you to do.
  4. Share Ownership Freely – If accomplishing the mission is more important than your ego, you will allow other people to take ownership. If you want the organization to carry on long after you are gone, then you will give away ownership.
  5. Empower Others – Closely related to #4, empowering others requires you to become more than a boss, it requires you to become a mentor and coach. It requires you to consider those under your leadership more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4).
  6. Comfortable with Uncertainty – Like the great theologian Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the face.” If you think everything will go exactly how you planned it, then buckle up, cause you’re in for a ride. Future leaders will learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
  7. Listen and Foster Self-Discovery – The people you lead are more than cogs in a wheel. They have their own goals and ambitions for the future. Future leaders will help them discover who they really are – their strengths, their weaknesses, their purpose, and their calling.
  8. Embrace the Role of a Mentor – If you really want to leave a mark in someone’s life, then you will take them under your wing. You will invite them into your life and teach them everything you know. There is no way around it … this will take time.
  9. Less Formal in Structure – We’re not going for image and outward appearance; instead, we’re going for depth, character, and godliness. Motives, passions, and the desires that drive a follower is what we’re interested in (See 1 Samuel 16).
  10. Driven by Service More Than Ego – The future leader will lead from the bottom-up, instead of top-down. They will do whatever they can to serve their team and help others succeed around them. Just as Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45), the future leader will lead in humility and sacrificial service.

Of these ten characteristics, which ones describe you the most? Which ones the least?

Over the next few months, pick one or two of these characteristics to work on and learn more about. It can’t help but benefit the future of your organization or church.


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