Leadership is big business. Between the books, workshops, conferences, and consultants, so much money is poured into that industry by people who want to become better leaders.
It makes total sense. Leadership is integral to any endeavor. Any time people are gathered around a common goal, it’s going to require some level of leadership—even though leadership can follow a number of different models.
While churches and Christian organizations have a lot to learn from their secular counterparts, it should only be after they get a firm grasp on the biblical view of leadership.
To that end, here are 50 Bible verses on leadership:
1. Delegate to capable leaders
But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.—Exodus 18:21
It doesn’t take too long for Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, to see that Moses is in way over his head. The Israelites have been brought out of Egypt, and all of Moses’s time is now being spent mediating their squabbles and issues. Jethro’s advice is to delegate trustworthy men to even out the burden.
Quality leadership looks for and empowers other leaders. The old adage—if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself—is nonsense. You’re not a better leader if you’re doing it all yourself.
2. Follow the Lord’s leading
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.—Psalm 32:8
Walking with God requires an intimate, prayer-filled reliance upon him. Christian leadership is truly impossible if you haven’t prioritized fostering a deep spiritual sensitivity.
3. Leaders seek delight in the Lord
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.—Psalm 37:3–4
There are so many temptations for leaders. If they’re not careful, they’ll end up putting their trust in themselves or their strategy. And if they’re doing well, they’ll take delight in it. It seems that the more successful you are as a leader, the more danger you’re in.
Successful or not, a leader’s trust and delight should always be in God.
4. Find stability in the stillness
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.—Psalm 37:7
Don’t be distracted by others’ success, even when it they’re succeeding in their wickedness. Developing patience, trust, and stillness before God will give you the stability you desire—and he will come through.
5. True leadership is content
Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.—Psalm 37:16–17
Godly leadership is grounded in righteousness, and righteousness is its own reward. Sometimes it might feel like your leadership skills would be better compensated in another venue, but you must trust that the Lord will honor your work and sacrifice.
6. From the overflow of their hearts, leaders speak
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.—Psalm 37:30–31
Jesus tells us that the things that come out of someone’s mouth originate in their heart. (Matt. 15:18) A leader needs to pay attention to the things they say because their words are an indicator of their spiritual condition.
A good leader’s words will bring light and life.
7. A leader’s integrity comes from within
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.—Psalm 78:72
As we saw in verse #6, our words are a strong indicator of our heart’s condition. It’s important that we pay attention to it because strong leadership will come from the integrity of our hearts.
As we know from David’s history, this doesn’t mean that we’re always perfect. But that we’re quick to repent when we realize we’re off track.
8. Leaders protect themselves from corruption
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.—Proverbs 4:23
We all know the heart is just a blood-pumping muscle. Biblically speaking, the heart represents our emotional, intellectual, and moral center. We need to protect it because, as the Proverb says, everything flows from that center.
Our spiritual condition reveals itself in our actions. A leader understands this and protects their spiritual core at all cost.
9. Leadership is integral to a nation
For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.—Proverbs 11:14
You can’t underestimate the power of leadership. To the writer of Proverbs 11, the nation they were talking about was Israel—God’s people.
The church needs guidance, too. Without strong leadership, a church cannot stand. But as the number of legitimate and godly advisers grows, the stronger she gets.
10. Leadership is rooted in righteousness
Kings detest wrongdoing,
for a throne is established through righteousness.—Proverbs 16:12
Leading requires integrity. If you want your leadership to have deep roots which will eventually lead to healthy fruit, you need to weed out compromise and short cuts.
11. Leaders are constantly improving
Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.—Proverbs 22:29
If you want to increase your influence, you’ll invest in your abilities. The more skilled a leader is, the more they’ll find themselves in demand. Leaders grow.
12. Leaders are made in troubled times
If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!—Proverbs 24:10
Hopefully you didn’t aspire to leadership to walk an easy path. Leaders are needed when the road gets rockiest and the path is unsure. A leader’s metal is truly tested in the toughest moments.
13. Leader pay special attention to their resources
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.—Proverbs 27:23–24
Resources don’t last forever. Money gets spent, volunteers move on, and facilities and systems break down. The church needs leaders who are keeping track of these resources to make sure they’re plentiful—and healthy!
14. Poor leadership is demoralizing
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan.—Proverbs 29:2
Bad leadership is terrible for an organization and demoralizing for the people under it. Poor leadership needs to be dealt with quickly and strongly because if it’s allowed to continue, it can undermine everything.
15. Good leadership offers stability
By justice a king gives a country stability,
but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.—Proverbs 29:4
An organization finds its security in the strength of its leadership. When it is uncompromisingly focused on doing justice, everything flourishes. When they begin looking for ways they can benefit from their position, things begin to fall apart.
16. Leaders put their trust in God
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.—Isaiah 41:10
Leaders find themselves in difficult situations and, if their attention isn’t fixed on Jesus, it’s easy to get dismayed. Because leaders find themselves under fire so often, it’s imperative that they are constantly growing in their awareness of God’s empowering presence.
17. Leaders recognize their limitations
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.—Isaiah 55:8–9
Face it—you’re fallible. You don’t have all the answers, even if everyone thinks you do. Another reason we need to be investing in our spiritual sensitivity is because as soon as we start trusting in their own wisdom, we’re sunk.
18. God establishes leadership
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”—Jeremiah 1:5
Sometimes a leader’s struggle isn’t just about remembering that God is with them. There are times that it’s a struggle to believe that you’re in the right place. In the thick of it, it’s easy to believe that you’ve made a huge mistake.
It’s important to recognize that God has prepared you for leadership. As long as your serving faithfully, you can trust that he’s preparing to deliver you.
19. A leader has an intimate relationship with God
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’—Jeremiah 33:3
Over and over the Bible is trying to tell us that spiritual awareness leads to greater insight. A strong leader prioritizes spiritual discipline because they know that their connection to God is where they derive their stamina, strength, staying power, and insight. Without that connection to God, you’re just a manager.
20. Leadership is about justice, mercy, and humility
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.—Matthew 7:12
The golden rule isn’t particular to Christianity, but Jesus adds a new wrinkle to it. Instead of it being a prohibition (don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you), Jesus instructs us to do for others what we wish they would do for us.
This should mindset should epitomize all of our leadership. After all, it sums up the whole law.
21. Leaders practice humility
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant—Matthew 20:26
This is another strange addition to the world’s leadership lexicon. If you want to be great, you must humble yourself. Christian leadership isn’t about standing above everyone, it’s about serving them.
22. A wise leader is always expecting the master’s return
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.—Matthew 24:45–47
If you ever feel like you need a little motivation and incentive to keep plugging away, remember that the Lord could return at any moment. We don’t want him to find us slacking off.
23. Leadership is all about service
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42–45
When people aspire to leadership, it often stems from a hunger for significance. This is a dangerous reason to seek leadership because once you get it, you’re likely to abuse it.
Jesus adds to the idea that whoever wants to be great must be a servant, but he adds a new component. The higher you want to climb, the more of a servant you need to become. If you want to be at the front of the pack, you need to be the slave of all.
24. True leadership recognizes the rule of reciprocity
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.—Luke 12:48
Spiderman says it well, “With much power comes much responsibility.” Jesus would totally agree. The more authority and influence you have the more that’s going to be required of you. Every promotion and growth in leadership needs to come with sober reflection.
25. Leaders aren’t restricted by their limitations
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”—Luke 18:27
Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding things that are beyond your ability. The sooner you get to a place where you’re no longer relying on your strengths, the sooner you’re going to see God doing amazing things. As long as you’re in your comfort zone, your leadership is compromised.
26. One doesn’t grow as a leader by chasing power
But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.—Luke 22:26
We’ve already seen Jesus comparing leadership to servants and slaves. Here he adds another simile. The greatest should be like the youngest.
In this culture, the youngest is the least important person in the family. They’re not getting the attention, the blessing, or the inheritance. Jesus says that if you want to be great in the kingdom, you can’t focus on what you’re going to get out of the deal.
27. Rightly understanding your place is a prerequisite for leadership
He must become greater; I must become less.—John 3:30
Jesus calls John the Baptist the greatest person that’s ever been born. (Matt. 11:11) This attitude had to be the reason why. John wasn’t interested in promoting himself. Even though he starts building up a lot of notoriety, as soon as Jesus comes on the scene, John takes the back seat—eventually losing his life.
Our attitude needs to be similar. Leadership isn’t about building a name for ourselves, it’s about amplifying Jesus’s name.
28. A real leader is the servant of all
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”—John 13:13–17
One of Jesus’s last object lessons was his willingness to wash the disciple’s feet during their last meal. This wasn’t some empty, symbolic gesture. It was a service that needed to be performed. It was something a servant would typically do.
Jesus isn’t asking his followers to humble ourselves in grand and figurative ways. He literally wants us to get on our hands and knees and serve those who follow us.
29. Leadership is about watching over yourself and others
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.—Acts 20:28
As leaders, we have two major jobs: to watch over those under our care and to watch over ourselves. If our attention is only on those we’re leading, we’re not taking care of or own needs. We need to make sure that we’re healthy if we want to adequately lead others.
30. Leaders have confidence in the future
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28
Even though Paul isn’t speaking to leaders, I can’t imagine a more leadership-appropriate message. Church leadership is full of tragedy and triage, one can easily become disheartening. Our perseverance is uniquely tied to our belief that God is already at work alongside us reconciling the most difficult situations to himself.
31. A leader’s security is in the Lord
If God is for us, who can be against us?—Romans 8:31
This is the leader’s rallying cry. There’s always some opposition, and it doesn’t just come from without. It’s important to remember that if you’re truly on God’s side, you don’t have to be afraid of resistance.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that a good leader ignores opposing voices. Hearing objections can be a great way to check your plumb line and make sure that you’re on the right track. But once you’re certain, move forward.
32. If you lead, do it diligently
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.—Romans 12:3–8
A leader is part of an organizational structure. It’s not a more important or more integral role than anyone else plays. It’s so important to recognize that a leader isn’t above anyone else, but works beside them to meet the everyone’s goals.
The system operates efficiently when everyone is using the gifts they were given to fulfill their role. Your job as a leader is to equip and empower them to bring more and more of their gifts to bear on their position—and by doing so, you’re leading more diligently.
33. Leadership is about stamina
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.—Galatians 6:9
A leader works hard making long-term energy investments that they won’t see an immediate return on. It can be draining to be planting seeds with the hope that they’ll grow into something majestic. A church or organization doesn’t become efficient or productive overnight, so a leader needs to be committed to the journey.
The struggle for leaders who grow weary isn’t simply that they give up. It’s that they shift toward a more autocratic, authority-driven style of leadership trying to increase the rate of change. And in the end, the structure that they’re hoping to fix is completely broken.
34. Leadership equips people to become mature
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.—Ephesians 4:11–13
The the church to become a mature community that expresses the fullness of Christ, everyone has to be pulling together in the same yoke. A church shouldn’t have a top-down organizational chart. It should be everyone harmonically working together to ensure that new believers can begin serving as well.
35. Leaders aren’t ambitious for their own gain
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves—Philippians 2:3
The key to biblical leadership lies in keeping your eyes on the goal. The goal is to worship God by serving others. The only way we’re going to be able to do that correctly is if we value them the way Jesus did.
The role of a leader is full of snares: self-aggrandizement, posturing, greediness, empty ambition, etc. The only sure way that we can serve God while avoiding leadership’s pitfalls is to value people above ourselves.
36. A leader learns to be content in every situation
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 4:12–13
Too often people quote Philippians 4:13 as if it stands alone. But Paul is setting himself up as an example of contentment in leadership.
We can’t look at our current experience to gauge God’s pleasure or the effectiveness of our work. Sometimes we will experience comfort and sometimes we will suffer want. The key is to find our contentment in serving well, and avoid judging our success by looking at our situation.
37. A leader’s hope is in God’s faithfulness
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.—1 Thessalonians 5:24
Is this a leadership specific verse? No. Is it important that leaders have this reminder in the back of their minds at all times? Absolutely!
When leading gets difficult (and it will) and you want to throw in the towel (which you will), you need to remember when and how you were called to lead, and know that God is going to see you through.
38. What are the expectations of a leader?
Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.—1 Timothy 3:2–7
39. Leadership and self-discipline go hand-in-hand
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.—1 Timothy 4:8
40. A leader isn’t defined by their age
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.—1 Timothy 4:12
41. Leadership doesn’t shrink
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.—2 Timothy 1:7
42. Lead by keeping your eyes on the goal
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.—2 Timothy 2:3–4
43. Leaders don’t rest on their laurels
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15
44. Leadership stems from true power
There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.—2 Timothy 3:1–5
45. A Church leader manages God’s household
Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.—Titus 1:7–9
46. A leader’s life is an example
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.—Hebrews 13:7
47. A leader turns to God for wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.—James 1:5
48. God rewards leaders for their perseverance
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.—James 1:12
49. The more humble a leader becomes, the more God exalts them
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.—James 4:10
50. Victorious leaders will be rewarded
Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.—Revelation 21:7