7 Behaviors of High Capacity Leaders

Leadership is a mix of iron and water. One part never bends, the other part is fluid and adaptive. Effective leaders not only understand that  relationship, but also the one between their motor and their motive – that it takes a combination of energy and humility to become great at what you do.  Leadership has nothing to do with luck.  A leader soars for a reason. So what exactly is it that makes them flourish? Here are 7 things that all great leaders seem to embrace, things the average leader often overlooks.  It’s what makes them soar.


1)  Great leaders pay attention. Poor leaders seek attention.

 The fastest way to taste the contents of your heart is to hear your competition complimented. King Saul’s paranoia skyrocketed the moment he heard the women of Israel dancing and saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” (I Samuel 18:7). The thought of someone else getting excessive attention drove Saul senseless. Swept out to sea by jealousy, Saul’s influence was over. Attention seekers have a short shelf life when it comes to leadership. Great leaders are different because they pay attention to themselves and to the world around them; not for the purpose of applause, but to acquire and absorb anything and everything that might help them transform into something new. Remember, the moment you brag you become less noticeable.

 2)  The secret to high capacity leadership is knowing how to turn personal criticism      into personal improvement.

 Criticism is different than accusation. There is zero truth in an accusation, so resist it … dismiss it … don’t park there. An accusation is demonic in nature. Criticism, however, is different because it usually contains some measure of truth. A mature leader listens for the smaller portions of the criticism that are actually factual instead of only hearing the larger portions that are usually exaggerated and unjust. It’s human nature to focus on the parts that are untrue and to miss out on the opportunity to grow past your blind spots. Never treat criticism like an accusation. You will be dismissing something the Lord wants you to hear.

3)  It’s not what you achieve – it’s what you set in motion.

 Great leaders have the same passion for planting as they do for reaping. Never connect your enthusiasm for leadership to what your natural eye can see. Great leaders know they will never see the full results of their efforts. To stay emotionally engaged, you have to practice “emotional patience” in leadership, knowing that some results are years in the making while other results will never arrive during your lifespan. Seeing another person come alive and soar forward in their life with the ideas you passed on to them is euphoric. As a matter of fact, it is the highest form of leadership satisfaction. Leadership outcomes do not return to you in a neatly wrapped package with a thank you note. If that’s your expectation, you will be sorely disappointed. So don’t crave the credit.

4)  Insecurity will emotionally rearrange everything you see and hear as a leader.

Healthy leaders know how to give love and receive love. Insecurity sabotages that process. Everyone fears being insignificant. It’s when you allow those feelings to fester and dominate your emotions that your leadership becomes toxic. Everyone gets overlooked and forgotten, but not everyone self-destructs because of it. The insecure leader must manipulate people because the only thing they trust is themselves. Insecurity deceives by telling the person they must delve past the mistrusting words they are hearing and discern the darker agenda inside the person. This kind of constant guesswork makes day-to-day to leadership impossible. You cannot lead if you are insecure.

5)  Leadership happens overtime – not overnight

For leaders, the conflict between seed and speed is relentless. Many leaders fail because they see leadership as a competition. They are desperate to be first to the marketplace with a product, or to be seen as the cultural thought leader on a certain subject. But great leadership is about anti-speed. The science of God’s kingdom is agriculture not technology. It takes the same amount of time to grow an apple today as it did in the days of Jesus. Great leaders pace themselves; not simply to avoid burnout, but because they understand that substance and wisdom grows like tree bark. No one can go deep in a day.

6)  It’s the responsibility of leaders to make complex things simple – it’s never to make simple things complex.

There is a deceptive trend happening in leadership. In an era of competitive creativity, leaders believe they must impress their listeners with deeply intellectual sayings to prove they are a cut above their peers.   The effect though, is that people are left confused about basic spiritual and life principles because their leaders and teachers are creating complexity out of simple truth. Life is tough and taxing for the average person. Your job is not to ‘wow’ them with pseudo intellectualism, your role as a leader is to bring clarity (not complexity). It’s to help them identify their next step and then encourage them to take it.

7)  The attitude is always louder than the answer.

Nothing communicates more than your countenance. You cannot hide your heart – whatever fills spills. When people hear you speak, what they really want to know is, “What’s in your heart?” Everybody knows that words can be constructed, manipulated and controlled, but an attitude has a life of its own. It operates independently. A negative person can figure out a way to say positive words, but they will still come across as  a negative person because you cannot mask an attitude. People hear words, but they feel attitudes. Attitudes are indelible.  Presentations are quickly forgotten, but an attitude is remembered for a lifetime.

Written by Scott Hagan

Scott Hagan

Scott and his wife, Karen, are the founding pastors of Real Life Church in Sacramento, CA. Scott is also a regular columnist for Charisma Magazine and the Enrichment Journal. He has authored two books through Charisma House: They Walked With the Savior and They Felt the Spirit’s Touch. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 thoughts on “7 Behaviors of High Capacity Leaders

  1. Excellent post Scott! I especially like what you said about, “people hear words, but feel attitudes”. Attitudes do speak louder than words and often are what is remembered for a life time. Really enjoyed this post and will re-read often!

  2. 7 points well spoken! #5 & 6 are priceless. Under #1 I would also add: Leaders pay attention to those whom they are leading. I’ve seen too many leaders lose touch with those whom they are leading by keeping their eyes on what other leaders are doing and gauging their success with that yardstick. As leaders we must know the needs and strengths if the people we lead and stay close enough to them for them to clearly follow us.

  3. Powerful…powerful, Scott! Each of the 7 points was “right on,” however, it was point #3 that really made me want to stand and shout, RIGHT ON!! In our missionary lives we have “set several things in motion,” only to see months or years later these very things come to fruition! Thanks so much for your spiritual insight. May God continue to bless and use you mightily for His Glory!
    P.S. One of our late missionary statesmen had a saying, “You can do a lot for God if you do not care who gets the credit for it!”

  4. Fresh article , written with a perspective that allows you to reflect on the characteristics Gods gives us and how we chose to use them. Pastor a wonderful article and you have a gift of writing besides teaching and preaching. How blessed I am

  5. Scott, just coming off a four day prayer/fasting trip with Christ, so appreciate this simple empowering word, it really frames in well the wonderful time I shared with God. It really is a great reminder of what is really important and the healthy perspective we need as leaders. Thank you for sharing it-it was rich with insight. Bless you and yours man-keep it up!

  6. A very timely post, Scott. The world, much less the Church, is in need of daring leaders. There is a fear in the present day that destroys a much needed faith and a selfless love that is the footing for real power. – Keep up the good word.

  7. I love this list. It spoke such volumes to me. I wish I could pick one or two that were my favorite, but all of them held such a weight that I am inspired to pick each one up individually and apply it to my leadership — and life.

    Thank you for sharing such wisdom!

  8. I really appreciate #6. People have no time to dissect the words of apparently smart speakers or authors who seek to impress with needlessly flowery language and complex sentence structures.

  9. Scott: Thanks so much for taking the time to continually invest in leaders. You are a Paul to many, and I am one grateful Timothy. You embody: “Great leaders have the same passion for planting as they do reaping”. Blessings!