McNeal lays out what it takes to be a great leader

With a prophet's voice and a comedian's timing, Reggie McNeal brought the importance and characteristics of, not just leaders, but extraordinary leaders, to the 2007 Central Valley Ministry Forum organized by Fresno Pacific University.

The scene was the campus Special Events Center, where McNeal spoke to a record crowd of nearly 400 pastors and lay leaders from a variety of churches and organizations February 15. McNeal is part of Leadership Network, a church-leadership agency.

Christians get squeamish talking about becoming great leaders, as though it smacks too much of personal ambition. "They just don’t think they ought to be concerned about it," McNeal said.

Jesus did not deny the desire to lead; he just redefined leadership. After all, the need has never been greater. "We are desperate in our culture for great leaders," McNeal said.

McNeal’s career has been about building great leaders. Before joining Leadership Network, he was director of leadership development for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. He has been a pastor and consultant and has lectured or served as adjunct faculty in seminaries in Texas, California, Illinois and South Carolina. His books include "Revolution in Leadership," "A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders," "The Present Future" and "Practicing Greatness."

Leadership is also the business of forum sponsors: MB Biblical Seminary, One by One Leadership, Growing Healthy Churches, Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and Strongtower Financial.

The word "great" must accompany "leader." "Good leaders get things done," McNeal said. "Great leaders bless people."

Though the forum's title was "Disciplines for Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders," McNeal presented his seven points as habits:

1. Self-awareness
2. Self-management
3. Self-development
4. Mission
5. Decisioning
6. Belonging
7. Aloneness

The list is not a menu. "You don't get to pick five," McNeal said.

All seven spring from Jesus' redefinition of leadership as service and humility. For Jesus, service is a challenge as well as a comfort. "He served the Pharisees when he whupped them out of the temple," McNeal said.

Humility? That's knowing the source of your strength and grounding. "Humility is a posture of the heart," McNeal said.