Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leadership is an Art

Written by: on April 23, 2015


In his book Leadership is an Art, Max De Pree sandwiches leadership between two essential bookends while defining the core that lies between; “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”[1]

Many leaders have a very foggy idea of reality, both current reality and potential reality. Without having a clear sense of the way things really are, the way things could and should be, and how to get there, a “leader” becomes more of an obstacle than an asset. Without a heartfelt thank you of gratitude for those who help us reach our goals, we begin to think that we achieve success on our own. Without the heart of a servant, we become a tyrant.

I have been in leadership most of my adult life and have served under leaders of various “qualities”. I have found that true leadership generally involves a great deal of mentorship. “Mentoring has become, for me, one of the chief duties of any leader.”[2] A mentor seeks to help the mentoree discover who they were created to be and to become better at what they do. For me, this is a great goal for any leader.

One of the best leaders I have had the privilege of learning from was Ken Bauman. He may not have written any books on leadership, but he had a knack for drawing things out of people that they did not know was there. I started college as a guitar performance major. Desiring to learn new styles, I joined the college jazz band and also a small jazz combo. Ken led both of these groups. Ken was a genius at reading the potential within a person. He knew when to push and when to accept a person’s limitations. In the three years I played with him, I found myself playing and improvising in ways I never thought I could. I found myself practicing harder because I began to believe that I could become the musician he seemed to see in me. In short, he inspired me to be better. He was humble and forgiving, yet never settled for mediocre.

I have also worked with leaders who were insecure, manipulative, unloving, and for the most part, all-around jerks. They carried such a desire to look good in other people’s eyes that they were horrible leaders who used and abused people. The sad thing is that most of these leaders were Christians. They seem to miss the point that, “the art of leadership…is liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible. Thus, the leader is the “servant” of his followers in that he removes the obstacles that prevent them from doing their jobs. In short, the true leader enables his or her followers to realize their full potential.”[3] Part of allowing people to reach their full potential is being gracious enough to allow them the freedom to fail. Without freedom to fail, there is no freedom to succeed. While the goal obviously is not failure, the ability to learn from failure leads to a greater rate of real success. Many leaders are not secure enough to allow the possibility of failure, therefore, people working under that leader will be fearful of taking a risk. A leader must be humble and forgiving. “Without forgiveness, there can be no real freedom to act within a group.”[4]

A final comment I would like to make on art of leadership is the importance of effective and repetitive communication. A leader who does not communicate clearly and regularly will not be an effective leader. ”There may be no single thing more important in our efforts to achieve meaningful work and fulfilling relationships than to learn and practice the art of communication.[5]

The Church needs more true leaders who follow Jesus close enough to hear his heart and who walk close enough in relationship with those around them to inspire them to become progressively more of the people they were created to be.


[1] Max De Pree, Leadership Is an Art (New York: Currency, 2004), 11.

[2] Ibid., vii.

[3] Ibid., xxii.

[4] Ibid., 145.

[5] Ibid., 108.

About the Author

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

7 responses to “Leadership is an Art”

  1. Travis Biglow says:


    One of the other things that it is hard to do when you are under leadership that is negative as you described is to point it out. Some leaders start quiet wars with you when you don’t go with flow. I am learning to be a “tempered radical” (Caroline Ramsey) because we have to let them know in the right way that there is a better way to lead. I like the servant leader concept because Christ was. Its easier for me too. I don’t want to appear one way and be another. I make mistakes too so we can all mature and grow together!

    • Brian Yost says:

      As difficult as it is, I must remind myself that God knows what’s going on, even when I have to work with difficult leaders. I am convinced that we can learn a lot from bad leaders. Hopefully we will not adopt their practices, but we can gain great insights into how a leader’s decisions and actions effect others.

  2. Nick Martineau says:

    Brian, Living in reality is key. I’d add that it’s not just reality of the word but a Kingdom reality. Too often our leaders reality is focused just on the measurable economic realities. I loved how Depree highly valued the reality of people.

    • Brian Yost says:

      Great distinction, Nick. Too often a leader comes in with his/her own vision and imposes it on the group. A truly great leader works with others to capture the vision that God has for them.

      • Dawnel Volzke says:

        Brian and Nick,

        I agree with you – that leaders must capture Christ’s vision for an organization. Listening to others is a great way to confirm vision, and to ascertain direction and details towards implementing the vision.

        Here are some issues that I see frequently:
        1) When vision is of the leader and not of Christ.
        2) The leader has no vision – this means they go day-to-day without positive momentum forward.
        3) The leader copies someone else’s vision – following the model from someone else – “if it worked for them, then it can work for us” mentality.
        4) The leader relies on yesterday’s vision, and fails to keep moving forward. They go stagnant.
        5) The leader has a vision, but cannot cast the vision to others. The inability to help others see the final picture often paralyzes an organization. Everyone must be on the same page, or they work toward different outcomes.
        6) The leader fails to operationalize the necessary actions that an organization must take towards implementing the vision.
        7) The leader moves too fast or too slow, without following God’s timing.
        8) The leader dreams and doesn’t do. Sometimes, leaders lack the ability to organize in a manner that allows an organization to successfully fulfill their mission & goals. Ever know organizations that fail in project after project?

  3. Dave Young says:

    Brian, Cool I want to hear you play. You know the more I read the more convicted I am that my other-centered focus regarding those I work with is weak. It seems like there is lot of room to improve how well I draw out others. Thanks for the conviction and great post.

  4. Mary Pandiani says:

    Brian – your words “The Church needs more true leaders who follow Jesus close enough to hear his heart and who walk close enough in relationship with those around them to inspire them to become progressively more of the people they were created to be” strike a chord with me. Seems in leadership we don’t always put great value on listening – to others, to God. But isn’t it interesting how listening to God’s heart opens up the possibilities to care for others? Thanks for the reminder.

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