At the start of a new calendar year, who isn't thinking about how they can improve themselves for maximum Kingdom productivity? Be encouraged – you may have already passed some of the tests every leader has to face. This article will give you some tips for passing the next test God sends your way.
Every person with the potential for leadership-and that is everyone-will face a series of tests. None are exempt. I know. I have faced test after test in life during the past 40 plus years in both the business and church worlds. And it did not stop there. My marriage has been tested, my family tested, relationships tested, my security tested, my reputation tested and our finances tested. In fact, I have faced so many tests that a few years ago I started to compile them into a list: I now call them "21 tests of effective leadership." But before I go on, allow me to give you some good news up front. God does not set up this "leadership training course" for us to fail! You will, however, continue to face the same tests again and again until you pass them.
With Flying Colors
I am writing this from the seat of United Airlines flight 681, flying to the West Coast of the USA. I am certainly relieved this airplane has gone through a safety test before it took off from the Chicago Airport a few hours ago. Imagine boarding a plane that has not been tested for safety. It would be ludicrous to trust such a plane. In the airline industry, everything is methodically tested. The pilots have been tested during years of prior training. The flight attendants were also trained and tested. Even every passenger was examined (tested) before boarding the plane to be sure they did not bring a weapon on board.
All of us will be tested so we can stand in the heat of the battles we will face. The greater our call to leadership, the greater the tests we will face. The Bible is filled with examples of those who were tested and then went on to become phenomenal leaders-some leading God's people and others providing leadership to whole nations. From Daniel to Joseph to Moses to Deborah to Jesus, we see those who led with endurance and strength, but they all faced great tests.
In the Bible we read, "When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing" (James 1:2-4).
There is a great need for leaders today to be willing to be examined by the tests of life, so they will endure during difficult times. Our God allows tests in our lives to prepare us for our future roles of leadership. If we lack anything today in the world we live in, it is secure, mature, consistent leaders who have been willing undergo testing. We don't need more positions filled. We need leaders in all walks of life who will lead in humility and strength. This type of leader can only be developed by embracing, enduring and passing the tests they will face.
My life has been a series of tests. I have faced the test of insecurity many times. I have been tested with the test of perseverance so many times I have lost count. I have experienced the tests of my calling, the humility test, the teamwork test, the releasing test, the priorities test, the transition test, the criticism test, the conflict test, the test of unmet expectations, the test of timing … the list goes on and on.
So then, I invite you to join me on my journey as I share with you 21 tests that I have faced personally. My guess is that you will also need to embrace these same tests as God prepares you for your present and future role of leadership. It really helps to know what the tests look like before we take them so we can be prepared for these tests when they come.
For the record's sake, I am still facing these and other tests so I can be the leader God has called me to be. This list of 21 tests is by no means exhaustive. But I can promise you that if you will embrace these 21 tests and allow the Lord to develop your attitude, your character and your abilities, you will be prepared for the leadership He has for you. Here's my list.
21 Tests of Effective Leadership
1. The calling test: An effective leader will discover his calling and trust God to manifest it
2. The humility test: Effective leaders give credit to others
3. The teamwork test: An effective leader finds a way for his team to win
4. The releasing test: An effective leader knows how to empower others
5. The priorities test: An effective leader determines what his priorities are in life
6. The transition test: An effective leader understands and leads the process of change
7. The criticism test: An effective leader accepts criticism and grows in the process
8. The dependency test: An effective leader depends on help from God
9. The conflict test: An effective leader embraces healthy confrontation
10. The vision test: Effective leaders inspire and articulate a vision and bring others with them
11. The love test: An effective leader makes decisions motivated by love
12. The integrity test: Effective leaders are the same in public as in private
13. The security test: Effective leaders find security in who they are, not in what they do
14. The grace test: Effective leaders know success depends on the grace of God
15. The expectations test: Effective leaders avoid unmet expectations
16. The finance test: Effective leaders take fiscal responsibility for their mission
17. The comparison test: Effective leaders only compare up
18. The perseverance test: Effective leaders refuse to quit!
19. The success test: Effective leaders never forget where they came from
20. The timing test: Effective leaders understand times and seasons
21. The kingdom test: An effective leader focuses on the eternal kingdom
Pressing Through and Letting Go
The twenty-one tests of leadership found in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more, of course. As we become aware of them, we can pass these tests and go on. Even if we fail, when we are faithless, the Lord is faithful. He will give us another chance. He gave Peter another chance, Jonah another chance and He gives you and me another chance.
But there is one more important truth that we must understand, lest we live our life in introspection rather than receiving and experiencing His grace moment by moment. Ecclesiastes 11:3 tells us: Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie." Beware of too much introspection. Some things that happen in our lives are for a reason, and many things that happen in our lives are tests to teach us how to live. However, everything that happens to us is not necessarily a test from God, even though He will use these difficult situations in our lives to make us more like Him. Remember, "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Some things in life just happen and we must be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to figure every little detail out. Sometimes the tree just fell. No reason. It just fell. Sometimes we need to let the tree lie right where it is, and go on! Stop trying to figure everything out! There may not be an answer to that "why" question you are asking.
For those areas of our lives that are tests we need to pass, let's press in to know the Lord better. Let us trust Him and discern the difference between the tests of life and the "trees that just happen to fall." My prayer is that you will experience great grace from the Lord as you pass the tests of life and leadership, as He prepares you to be the leader He has called you to be.
And as you face each test of life, never forget your Heavenly Father's words of affirmation to you: "You are my beloved son or daughter, and I am pleased with you!"
This article is adapted from Larry Kreider's book, 21 Tests of Effective Leadership, released January 1, 2010, through Destiny Image Publishers in Shippensburg, Pa.