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Articles > Discerning Legitimate Leaders

12 May 2015

What makes a leader legitimate? The term legitimate refers to the idea of one being sanctioned as valid, according to legal standards, therefore being authorized as acceptable. The concept also relates to one being authentic and genuine, or what some would call the real deal.

Additionally, identifying legitimate leaders depends on the perspective of those assessing individuals considered authentic and authorized to lead. In the eyes of men the leader with a 10,000 member church may be deemed legitimate based upon his entrepreneurship and marketing skills.

Or, another leader could be considered legitimate simply because of the title or position given him by his peers. Yet, still other leaders are called legitimate because of their popularity within their particular movement or because of the accomplishments they’ve made or the books they’ve written.

However, Jesus said; “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Remember, God said, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7) In testifying of king David, God said, he “was a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22).

While we may look at the outward features in our assessments, God examines the heart of the leader. God knows the leader’s heart... He knows his core. He knows what is going on in the center of the leader’s universe. God knows the leader’s core needs, which all give life to his core intentions, core desires, core motivations, and core values.

While we as finite beings cannot assume to know the core factors that motivate a particular leader’s behavior or choices, there are indicators that lend credence to their potential legitimacy as a leader. Following are several thoughts considering some of those indicators.

Legitimate Leaders - base their biblical stance upon the whole counsel of God and not just select bible verses or texts. They see the whole counsel of God as the foundation for all righteous behavior and lifestyle, for the principles and laws that create and uphold righteous governmental systems, and for administering and upholding true justice.

Legitimate Leaders - are uncompromising in their allegiance to almighty God and His word. They acknowledge the sacredness of scripture as the infallible message of God to mankind and stand ready to defend it at all costs. They will not allow the word of God to be tampered with nor altered in any way by those desiring to adjust it to appease current societal or cultural demands.

Legitimate leaders - do not operate out of their neediness because they are aware of it and have taken measures to heal, reduce, or somehow neutralize that neediness. Legitimate leaders seek to know themselves as they are known. They are aware of their insecurities, their need for acceptance and approval, or any of the other psychological needs we’ve inherited from our great grandfather Adam. They are fully cognizant that the enemy will try to use their unmet needs as a channel to draw them into compromising activities or positions. As a consequence they are continually inviting and allowing God to heal and meet these needs.

Legitimate leaders - do not deny they have stuff, are working on their stuff, and are helping others to do the same. They recognize they are on a journey of restoration, sanctification, and transformation as they are daily conformed to the word of God by the Spirit of God. They realize they are not done yet, humbly acknowledging their inadequacies, weaknesses, and lack of complete wholeness. They steadfastly encourage those they lead to follow them on this lifetime journey.

Legitimate leaders - are able to discern the difference between righteousness and evil, between clean and unclean, the holy and unholy, and make their decisions according to that discernment. They abhor mixture or any type of behavior or relationship that would jeopardize the authority needed to defeat God’s spiritual enemies. They have confidence in spiritual battles simply because they maintain a clean camp and therefore know God is with them.

Legitimate Leaders - are committed to developing and maintaining godly healthy character, competency of skill, and sound quality decision-making. They know quality of character trumps gifting, anointing, position, and leadership ability. Next to quality character, competency of skill is an absolute must in effectively leading God’s people into the place He has ordained for them. Their finely honed and uncompromised discernment along with the input of trusted peers steers their decision- making towards hitting the mark.

Legitimate Leaders - do not lead their people into compromising behavior, self-defeating situations, demonic captivity, or behaviors or lifestyles that deny the truth of God's word. In their love for God’s people they are fully aware that their leadership can make all the difference in whether God’s people are spiritually victorious and successful in working out and walking out their salvation. Realizing that their behavior and lifestyle will be imitated, they live and walk in the fear of the Lord.

Legitimate leaders – have a plan and protocol for guarding themselves against the temptation of sexual immorality. They fully understand the devastating effect sexual improprieties could have upon their wives, children, family, and the people they serve, people who look to them as a model of sound spiritual leadership and integrity. Hence, they guard themselves impeccably.

Legitimate leaders – understand the importance of making themselves totally accountable to a group of God fearing peers. They know personal accountability is one key to guarding, maintaining, and upgrading their character and integrity.

Legitimate leaders - do not have to always be in the lime light, on the stage, or basking in the adoration of men. Fully aware of their neediness and its desire to seek the approval and acceptance of others, they guard themselves against self-promotion, pursuing preeminence, or having to be first. They absolutely realize that promotion comes from the Lord and not from man.

Legitimate Leaders - regularly practice humility, repentance, forgiveness, legitimate reconciliation, true justice, restitution, and kingdom pursuits. They know that these spiritual disciplines position them to be ever ready to hear and quickly respond to the leading of the Lord.

Legitimate leaders - seek to reproduce God fearing, spiritually sound, emotionally stable, mentally steadfast, accountable, and covenant keeping leaders. They know that effective stable life- changing leaders are very much needed within the body of Christ, if we are going to fulfill God’s mandates for global transformation.

Legitimate Leaders – do not participate in political intrigue, nor do they bow their knee to political correctness. They are not blown about by every wind or whim of the opinions of men. They do not change sound biblical positions because of the pressure of the media, the masses, or what some consider the movers and shakers. The only party they belong to is the kingdom of God party

Ultimately, legitimate leaders are not perfect, but their heart motivations are evident by the words, actions, and behaviors they exhibit in their daily routine. And just as David sought after God’s own heart, so do they.

© Copyright 2015 Ivan G. Doxtator 

Rev. Ivan Doxtator, MSW