9 qualities of a great leader

Dale Peterson

Executive director of the Eagle Brook Association

  • Leadership

After 20 years on Eagle Brook’s leadership team, I’ve seen leaders come and go. Every now and then, someone gets hired who just seems to “pet our cat backward.” They love the Lord and feel called to lead in the church. But for some reason, they’re not a good fit, and they irritate us. I finally drove a stake in the ground and said, “From now on, we’ll no longer hire average people.” Average people get average results, and the church deserves to have the very best people in leadership roles.

I believe there are nine qualities of a great leader.

Character   Competence Chemistry 
 Biblical knowledge Pastoral EQ  Spiritual authority 
Godly wisdom  Organization wisdom   Person wisdom


Let’s take a look at the top row.


  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Humility
  • Honesty
  • Open to feedback


  • Wise
  • Smart
  • Skilled
  • Confident
  • Results


  • Forgiving
  • Compassionate
  • Generous
  • Kind
  • Selfless

The bottom row focuses on three kinds of wisdom.

Godly wisdom

If we can understand God’s perspective and know his heart, we will be better leaders and make wise decisions. We need leaders who are connected to God’s heart and boldly lead with his wisdom.

  • Read God’s Word
  • Spend time in prayer
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit and remain sensitive to his leading
  • Find a Christ-centered mentor

Organizational wisdom

Eagle Brook has three concepts that help our leaders have organizational wisdom. First, we have a clear and compelling vision. We created a vision culture that is built around the vision God gave our senior pastor. We needed to intentionally push a vision culture into the veins of our church so that we all agreed on 1) who we are, 2) why we exist, 3) what we were called to do, 4) how we will do it, 5) where we are going and 6) when we will get there. We’re looking for great leaders who love our vision and don’t even think about changing it.

Second, when it comes to strategy, our leaders need to know we have an “Eagle Brook way” of doing things. We only do something if it’s relevant. We only do things that transform lives. We only do things that create ownership in our church. We guard these three principles with extreme fervor. There is wisdom in only doing ministries you do well, that give you passion and ultimately give you success. We say no to everything else.

Finally, we are looking for great leaders who embrace our five staff commitments.

  • Own the mission: Great leaders are committed to our mission. We are compelled, more than anything else, to reach people for Christ, and we are unapologetic about growing our church — we plan for it, anticipate it and go after it.
  • Live wisely: We love wisdom more than policy, so we’re committed to growing in wisdom. A culture of policy tends to create rule followers, but a culture of wisdom creates high-performing leaders, and high-performing leaders can assume greater responsibilities.
  • Lead boldly: Driven by our mission and guided by wisdom, we take on big challenges that require big faith because it produces big results. We are a church that boldly shares the gospel. Not to get bigger, we do this because so many people need to know Jesus. This is all about bringing glory to Jesus.
  • Make it better: We are committed to making our church better, both ministry and people. We expect leaders to develop themselves and develop others. Excellence honors God and inspires others, so we’re always trying to make it better. We understand that people won’t invite people to something that’s average, so we strive for excellence, authenticity and engagement.
  • Love each other: We believe our value is found in who we are in Christ, not just in what we do. We work hard and get results, but it’s equally important to love each other.  We’re committed to loving each other in the same way Christ loves us.

The third type of wisdom is discovering the truth about ourselves.

Personal Wisdom

Great leaders are self-aware. They are humble and able to receive feedback. They have a way of leveraging their strengths and managing their weaknesses. We all need to admit we have blind spots and then demonstrate a willingness to improve. When we do this, it launches our leadership to the next level. Eagle Brook won’t tolerate leaders who resist growing in personal wisdom.

The qualities in the middle row are the ones people expect every pastor to have.

Biblical knowledge

People expect you to know the Bible. They want their pastor to be a resource for their biblical and spiritual questions.

Pastoral EQ

A lot of pastoral training is about IQ, but so much of being a pastor is EQ (emotional quotient). Far too many pastors are nervous about hospitals, funeral homes and people in the lobby. We need to ask God to give us a heart of compassion for people, and we need to be comfortable being a pastor.

Spiritual authority

This kind of sums up all nine qualities. Can you think of someone who has spiritual authority? Can you think of someone who lacks spiritual authority? The challenge is to fill the gap. Here are some observations about those with spiritual authority:

  • They are secure in who they are
  • They reassure others in difficult times
  • They are humble yet confident
  • They hear from God
  • They navigate truth and love
  • They have earned trust over time and have gained influence

We use these nine qualities when we hire new staff; we also use them to develop staff. Why? Because the church deserves to have the very best people in leadership roles.

I’ll end with a few questions.

  1. Do you have any average people on your staff who lack some of these qualities? If so, how can you help them get better?
  2. Do you have an area you need to develop? You can use these qualities to create your own development plan.

For the sake of the church and the mission of reaching people for Christ, let’s commit to being and hiring great leaders who demonstrate these nine qualities.

Dale Peterson, Executive director of the Eagle Brook Association

Dale Peterson is executive director of the Eagle Brook Association, a ministry of Eagle Brook Church, which has nine locations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.

Additional articles by Dale Peterson