In the years that I have worked with church leaders I have come to the conclusion that the single most important prerequisite for serving in leadership is a deep level of humility. The immediate pushback on this is that clearly, church leadership requires someone who knows and loves Jesus. That is true. But here is something that is also true. There are many leaders who claim to know and love Jesus but who are not humble and they often destroy the work of a healthy board. All other factors aside, without humility one cannot lead well.
Humility is the key to leading on behalf of Jesus, the Shepherd of the Church. Church leaders are under shepherds and their role is to lead the congregation on behalf of Jesus. He sets the agenda for the church, not us. Many church leaders have agendas for the church. It takes a humble, Christ centered leader to lead a people to where God wants them to go.
Humility is the key to ensuring that a church is a "Church called TOV" to use the title of a recent book. TOV is the Greek word for goodness and too many churches are not places of goodness (amazingly enough). It is often the lack of humility among senior leaders and board members that prevent TOV from being the prevailing culture because other personal agendas get in the way of God's agenda.
Humility is the key to treating others with dignity, respect, kindness, and to empower others to flourish in their God given lane with their God given gifts. Proud leaders control others. Humble leaders empower others. The need of a leader to get their way, control those around them and "use" people for their own purposes destroys a TOV culture.
Humility is the key to creating an open learning culture. Proud leaders don't listen to others. They listen primarily to themselves or the yes people they surround themselves with. It takes humility to create a culture of robust dialogue - where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack.
Humility is the key to making decisions because the best decision making is not by one person alone but by a group of called, gifted leaders. Which means that there are times that I must submit my preferences to the decision of others. That takes humility and a theology of the giftedness of the group.
Humility is the key to personal spiritual growth and ongoing transformation. Proud people think they have it all together while humble leaders are very aware of their need for ongoing growth and transformation. And, they are willing to go there because they are not stubbornly holding on to their pride. There is no true personal growth without a spirit of humility.
None of this should surprise us as Paul points out in Philippians 2 that humility is a core feature of Jesus himself. In fact, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, "I am gentle and humble in heart." How many of us can say that about ourselves? How many church leaders and pastors can claim the same? Without humility we cannot be like Jesus or lead like Jesus.