Leading effective city movements requires leadership that has some very distinct qualities. Here are some of the most prominent characteristics of leaders who demonstrate these signature elements.
- They operate with a kingdom bias. These leaders understand that God’s kingdom is his primary activity on planet Earth, his missional agenda for people to experience life as he intended. Kingdom bandwidth stretches across all aspects of human flourishing – spiritual, social, economic, emotional – every part of human existence. This reality pulls them into the breadth of community life to partner with God in the desire that his kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
- They pray for their city. These leaders have the city on their heart – and in their prayers. They are burdened by what they see around them and intercede passionately for their community. These leaders often create prayer networks of others who are similarly moved to “seek the welfare of the city” as a spiritual stewardship.
- They foment dissatisfaction with the status quo. Most leaders find themselves troubled by particular issues and concerns that get their attention and energy. City movement leaders excel in the ability also to make other people similarly dissatisfied with conditions and situations that they feel need to be addressed. This fomenting is strategic; in other words, these leaders demonstrate political savvy in knowing the right people to engage and how to turn agitation into positive action.
- They combine social and spiritual entrepreneurship. Where other people only see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities. Old problems present windows for new approaches and fresh solutions. The only failure that entrepreneurs cannot accept is the failure to attempt change and progress. Community leaders who create and lead movements that address key societal issues (literacy, human trafficking, economic development, etc.) realize that breakthroughs require the willingness to take risks. Kingdom leaders view seemingly intractable societal ills as opportunities for inspiring hope and faith as they work for a better world. Guided by this kingdom narrative they flip the dominant worldly script of pessimism and anxiety into one of promise and a preferred future.
- They marry vision with action. Successful city leader movers and shakers are not content just to paint pictures of what could be. These insightful leaders understand that the dynamic of getting people dressed up with nowhere to go – fired up with dreams but no real plan for engagement – provides a sure recipe for cynicism and increased despondency. Accordingly, they create on-ramps for people to join them in working toward the vision they inspire. People are given options for how they can contribute to solutions, how they can take action to move the needle on issues that capture their interest.
- They call the party. Leaders of impactful city movements are not Lone Rangers. They are collaborative in their approaches, preferring a team strategy. Equally important, they have the personal credibility for bringing people together to work on community initiatives. They can put people at the table to work together. Their capacity to do this comes from their having invested in developing relationships with leaders from other domains. Leaders of city movements sublimate their own ego or their need to be the hero to allow other significant players into the effort. Anywhere you find a cross-domain initiative addressing significant community issues, behind it will be a leader or group of leaders who practice high collaborative intelligence.
- They maintain a (pain-tinged) optimism. Leaders of city movements demonstrate remarkable resiliency in the face of daunting challenge and inevitable setbacks. Their firm grounding in God’s kingdom purposes enable them to soldier on with hope and faith and love.