Is Competence Really Critical In A Christian Leader?

Over the past 60 days, I have been going through a lot of resumes for key positions within our company. In doing this, I have realized that our discussion about the key building blocks to Christian leadership is a very timely topic for me! Depending on the position, I am likely looking for these very characteristics in the candidates I interview.

Christian leader

Credible Christian Leadership

This is my fifth and final post in the series on credible Christian leadership. In this series we have been looking at the four building blocks of Christian leadership proposed by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, Credibility. We started with honesty, followed by being forward-looking, or casting vision. Then, in my last post, we looked at being inspiring. Today, we will focus on the fourth and final building block, competence.

Some Incredible Claims!

As I mentioned earlier, I have been going through stacks of resumes to find the right candidates for some very key roles in our business. As I go through these resumes, I marvel at the variety of ways people can express incredible, performance-based claims. Reading some of these, you would think the candidates would be better served writing fiction than they are in managing people!

Don’t get me wrong. Not all of them are like this. Some are very factual and some even back up their claims with various means of proof. Some don’t make the outrageous claims. They simply state facts about their work experience and accomplishments.

What is my point?

Competence Is Critical

Well, my point is this – I am looking for solid leaders, those that others will want to follow. I am looking to fill roles that are critical to the success of our company, and by extension, our ability to impact eternity. If I hire only for honesty, vision, and inspiration – forgetting about competence – then I am doomed to failure!

On the surface, many of the resumes I have reviewed look good. However, I obviously won’t choose them based solely on this. I must find out if they are competent as well. If not, the people in our organization will not follow them. The truth will come out quickly.

Folks, we simply cannot get by with mediocre if we truly want to be Christian leaders that point others to God. We cannot accept just showing up for the job. Even if we have great personalities and extensive knowledge of the industry, we are not going to succeed if we are not competent at what we are called to do!

What Action Do We Take?

So, what does this mean to you and me? Assuming we agree on the absolute need for competence in our roles as Christian leaders, what does that mean we need to do about it?

The bottom line is that we are to be learners. We are to be students of our industry. We should be investing time on a regular basis to grow our skills and our understanding. We can not pass muster if we are not growing constantly.

There are too many resources available today for any excuses. If you work at it, you can even find plenty that will not cost you a penny! All you have to be willing to invest is your time! Don’t let complacency slip up on you…go learn something!


I pray you have gained something from our discussion of the four building blocks of Christian leadership. I also pray that you are taking something you have learned and are applying it. I have a quote stuck to the bottom of the monitor on my desk. Here is what it says:

Knowing is not enough; I must apply.
Willing is not enough; I must do.

What 3 leadership books have you read this year?

Are you working on your competence in your job?

Do you require the same from your team?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • 3 books I’ve read this year to help me with my leadership ability: Introverts in the Church by McHugh, Platform by Michael Hyatt, and A Woman’s Secret for Confident Living by Ladd. These may not be under the “leadership” category at the bookstore, but they do each relate to an area of leadership I need to work on to grow. Competence is definitely important for me. I want to make sure that ignorance is limited in my life, and I love how accessible learning has become. My husband and I were just talking about how to up the anty in our lives, so your series is very timely.

    • Thanks Kari! I am glad to see you are on top of it!

  • Chris, I understand the importance of competence in your business and I believe it’s something that needs to develop. On the other hand, as an author, I know that sometimes competence develops over time. Seth Godin wrote something along the line of: Start writing poorly and keep writing poorly until you start writing better. (Don’t have my Evernote up and running right now.)

    I read a snippet of an article about an entrepreneurial (Wow! I got that right or spell checker isn’t working) chef who hires people based on 13 characteristics “four of which basically translate ‘happy’.”

    Having coached, sometimes I want to work with the guy who’s less competent and more teachable because, in the end, that guy’s the one who’ll get the job done.

    I add this disclaimer. I’d be out of my freaking mind if I had to make the decisions you have to make right now. 🙂

    • Tom, I can see your examples and they make sense. I was thinking more from a leadership perspective. I will certainly hire someone based on their potential, even if they are not competent today. I won’t put them in a leadership role without that competence, though.
      Take the author example…I see competence developing over time (I am counting on it!!!!), but that does not mean the novice author is ready to teach other authors or lead other authors. The chef should hire based on the 13 characteristics he or she has found to be critical for that job. But without competence, I doubt they will let the new hire oversee the kitchen in their absence.
      By the way, who says I am NOT going out of my mind?!?!?

      • This whole conversation reminds me of basic training in the army. I scratched my head when the drill sergeant selected a guy I’d have never chosen for our platoon leader. He was loud, mouthy, and the opposite of a good soldier, but … He had leadership skills the DS recognized even though none of us buck privates saw it. Our platoon leader got competent in a hurry. Of course he was in charge of a bunch of raw knuckleheads (actually we were pretty proficient knuckleheads, just raw soldier material) and not Chevy’s latest lineup.

        • I love the way you describe that situation! It is amazing how quickly we can learn if the right motivation is there, right?

  • But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25… Chris, from my simple coaching perspective this says what you are pointing to – Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk and know others will be looking to follow. Leaders should not need to embellish or dress up their resume…

    My prayers are for you to discover the wisdom needed to discover God’s plan for you and the company.

  • CyndyClaussen

    What about making sure you have the God given talents and gifts to use toward becoming competent? Too many of us seem to make a decision on what job we pursue based on things disconnected with knowing ourselves. We let our parents tell us, our coaches, our friends, or our teachers, but if we don’t spend time, alone with God, meditating daily on who He made us to be, then we can learn all we want in the world’s wisdom and we still won’t be competent at our jobs. I think we, in business, to often emphasize the wrong learnings. It might be better to make the first lesson learned to be: love who we are just as God made us. Then understand where that fits in a company as a resource doing a job. Finally when offered the job, take it and do it, “As unto God..” Leadership is good, but perhaps followership, of God and His tennants, is more often needed and takes more competence.