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5 facts about leadership capital

| by Brian Thorstad

Capital: “Wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available for a particular purpose such as starting a company or investing.” (New Oxford American Dictionary).

Leadership capital is,from a biblical standpoint, the God-given ability to persuade others to follow a prescribed course of action. Some people call it “clout,” or simply “influence.” The following are five facts I’ve learned about this important endowment from God. 

1. Leadership capital can be used for God’s glory or for our own selfish purposes.  

Leadership is a morally neutral life-skill. It is well-used when influencing others to do right; it is ill-used when influencing others to do wrong.  For this reason, leadership capital needs to be viewed as a gift from God and handled carefully. 

2. Leadership capital, like the coupon you clip from the newspaper, has an expiration date.  

This takes discernment. There are times when you must make the suggestion, float the new idea or propose the big change, in a timely manner, or lose the opportunity to lead. The old saying says “strike while the iron is hot.” 

A congregation with a beloved pastor was on the brink of beginning a fundraising campaign and building a badly needed new building. When the pastor unexpectedly resigned, the initiative was put on hold. When the new pastor had gained some capital of his own, the new building was completed.

3. Leadership capital is givento leaders and potential leaders by their followers.   

I’ve seen desperate people who were leaders “in name only” angrily declare that they were going to “take the leadership.” But leadership can’t be taken. It is offered freely and must be accepted freely. Leadership that is only “positional” isn’t leadership at all. 

Similarly, a leader with capital to spare can encourage followers to grant some capital to another would-be leader. But that’s all he can do—encourage. He can’t give his capital to another or force followers to give it to someone whom they don’t trust. 

4. Leadership capital can be both earned and squandered through the good and bad actions of leaders.  

Loving people earns capital. Forgiving people earns capital. Being calm under pressure earns capital. Showing grace toward troubled and troublesome persons earns capital. Apologizing when necessary earns capital. Relaxing and having a good time with people earns capital. 

5. Leadership capital is given to different leaders for different purposes at different times. 

This is mysterious but true. At times, as a transitional pastor, I am granted a surprising amount of leadership capital with which to lead churches through healing, change and reconciliation.  

There are also leadership initiatives and needed changes for which board members or other leaders must use capital which I don’t have.  

Toward the end of each transitional pastorate, I recognize that the “new guy,” to whom I hand my baton during my last Sunday morning, is going to be given capital which I haven’t been given, for specific, exciting, future-oriented initiatives.  

I have learned to accept this, and rejoice in my successor’s “new pastor” capital. On my way out the door I encourage my successor to make sure to use his capital, and to use it wisely.   

  • How much leadership capital has been given to you by your followers? 
  • Is there an expiration date on the use of this capital?
  • What can you do to earn more capital, to be used for the advancement of the gospel and the glory of God?
  • Are there ways in which you can help others gain valuable leadership capital?

Photo source: istock 


Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.



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