We are just over a week away from a move back home. Going across the country from RI to AZ is no small thing. I absolutely hate moving, but there is one good thing that a move will do for you—that is purge your stuff. As a people, we tend to be accumulators. Fortunately, my wife and I are of the same mind on at least one thing, and that is that neither one of us likes clutter. We generally stay streamlined; we are always getting rid of stuff.

As I am packing up my books and files, I have taken this opportunity to cleanse. I have been going through the files and folders of articles, notes, and various other sundries I have collected over the years from my seminary classes, personal research, and sermon preparation. There were several pounds worthy of the recycling bin. Nevertheless, it also allowed me to rediscover a few gems.

One thing I came across were some notes from Darryl DelHousaye’s “Balancing Life’s Demands” course. Now I am grateful to Pastor Darryl for several nuggets over the years, but one that I am very grateful for is the distinction between “formal” and “informal” authority. The principle is this: Leadership is a function of authority, and leaders generally lead out of one or a combination of these two kinds of authority. “Formal” authority is that which is bestowed on the leader because of his or her position or rank. “Informal” authority, on the other hand, is that which is bestowed on the leader because the people want to follow him or her.

The leaders operating out of their “formal” authority have people following them because they have to. They are the boss, the parent, the pastor, the expert, etc. Often times, they will motivate by pulling rank, using threats, and generally demanding obedience.

The leaders operating out of “informal” authority just find that people are following them and looking to them for leadership. They have not demanded it. They have not asked for it, but they have demonstrated some level of competence, integrity, wisdom, or care—and because of that—people follow. They are persuasive because they are good people doing and saying good things.

Jesus said to his disciples, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42–45). And there it is! If we want to be leaders, we need to take the mindset of the servant. It is not for us to pull rank or demand the allegiance others. We earn it by becoming their servants.

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