A New Kind of Leader

Leadership. This word is used often these days. Numerous conferences and seminars, bestselling books, or simply a search of my computer all demonstrate how prevalent this concept is in our society. While communication about leadership is everywhere today, I wonder where actual leadership can be found. In Nav Neighbors, we want people who truly lead—not merely write about it, as I’m doing here.

Recently, here in Seattle, participants in our Nav Neighbors Leadership Initiative pondered metaphors and examples we use to help us understand leadership. For example:

  • The military leader—I admit much of my leadership development came from my 33 years of putting on camouflage.
  • The CEO—Again, I acknowledge I’ve read many books on leadership from successful corporate leaders and been helped by them.
  • The famous Christian leader—And many of these have influenced me over the years.
While these are helpful, it was suggested that we need some new metaphors as we learn to live as faithfully present Christ-followers in our neighborhoods, and as we help others do the same.

A foundational leadership principle in our Mission is this: We cannot take people where we have not gone ourselves. So we must think about how we are learning to bless our families, neighborhoods, and other relational networks. That’s where it begins.

We need to learn to lead locally in such a way that many begin to live out the life of Christ faithfully. We need to learn to lead collaboratively and interactively. We surfaced several helpful metaphors in our Seattle gathering:
  • The player–coach who’s on the playing field as well as the sideline
  • The musical conductor who draws out strengths of each person and weaves them together into a beautiful harmony
  • The designer who sees possibilities and creates new ways to seek the flourishing of their community
As we trace the advance of the Gospel through the New Testament, we see four key leadership contributions working together:
  • Pioneering teams: people who move into new places or contexts to plant the Gospel and to lay the foundations of a generational ministry
  • Local laborers: “insiders” or “insider laborers” who serve within local relational networks in ways that are integrated into normal work and family life
  • Local leaders: individuals who care for, lead, and build community among laborers in a local context
  • Mobile alongsiders: leaders who are available and committed to travel to come alongside local laborers, leaders, and pioneering teams in order to encourage and strengthen them in life and ministry
Each of these contributions remain essential to a generational movement of the Gospel into our neighborhoods, cities, and the nations.

I urge you to take six minutes to watch this excellent video narrated by Mike Treneer, former International President of The Navigators, titled “Drawing Out: The Four Contributions” on these functions. In addition, I’m sure you will appreciate reading “A Special Breed” by David Lyons, which also addresses the four contributions.

How are you blessing your family, friends, and community? Which of the new metaphors best describes your role as a leader?

Al Engler is the Mission Director of Nav Neighbors. You can learn more about him and his heart for the neighborhood and contact him here.