Great Leaders Strive for Discipleship, Not Dictatorship

Gary Schneeberger

16 November 2020

Leadership is about power—but not in an authoritarian way through which many bosses unfortunately operate. We all know, and likely have worked for, a man or a woman who thinks the authority to marshal a team is tied to a position. Maybe you yourself have thought that being vice president of this or chief officer of that is all the motivation your staff needs to trust, listen to and follow you. You’re the boss because you’re the boss… right? 


Dictatorships crumble; discipleship grows a leader’s humility, through which a future is born for the leaders you make and the business you lead.

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But leadership, true leadership, is not dictatorship; it’s discipleship—less about the leader’s power than the leader’s empowerment of others. You create disciples by empowering those who work for you. And disciples do more than just good work for the company; they broaden and deepen a company's reach and influence. Dictatorships crumble; discipleship grows a leader’s humility, through which a future is born for the leaders you make and the business you lead. 

Think you might need to shift from an I’m-in-control-here mindset to a we’re-all-in-this-together one? Try these five approaches with your team:

  • Hand over some of the keys to the kingdom. A lot of doors have to be opened in a typical workday, let alone on a long-term project. Don’t unlock them all yourself. Spread the keys around to the members of your team who are most adept at and interested in the aspects of the job that needs to be done. This is more than delegating duties; it’s placing faith and planting seeds in the men and women who work for you. As their confidence and experience grows, flip them more keys.
  • Don’t be a supervisor; be a mentor. As you release your team to conceive and execute projects, they are still going to need your guidance. Don’t push them to do it like you would or how you think they should. Watch as they develop and launch their own strategies. Don’t micromanage their every move. Allow them to try fresh techniques even as you ensure the goals that need to be met are met. Offer counsel to help them complete their plan, not a direction to alter that plan (provided their roadmap leads to where the company needs it to).
  • Let them fail. Some of the best lessons your team members will learn will come not from what they do right, but what they do wrong. So let them do wrong. If you see them headed toward an error in planning, judgment, or execution that will not jeopardize the company’s bottom line or reputation, sit back and allow them to stumble. 
  • Pick them up after they fall. Whether you’re offering insights for next time after a plan or tactic has fallen short or you need to correct (even formally) a misstep that’s more serious, aim to position your feedback with an eye toward their ongoing professional development. Be specific about what they could have done differently or more carefully. Dictatorial leaders bring the hammer down with little regard for anything but placing blame. Disciple-making leaders use setbacks as the soil in which to grow the men and women whose development is entrusted to them.
  • Repeat until you replicate. Great leadership makes great leaders. As you walk alongside those on your team through the steps outlined above, leverage each cycle with each team member to draw out and enhance the strengths that not only serve them and the organization as your employees today, but will provide them even greater empowerment tomorrow—as leaders with their own employees to disciple.

Remember, leadership is about power, but the most effective power you have is that which you wisely give away to those you lead.

Gary Schneeberger

Gary Schneeberger is founder and president of ROAR, a full-service public-relations firm that generates and leverages strategic opportunities for clients to change others’ hearts by articulating what’s in theirs. Gary is the author of best-seller “Bite the Dog: Build a PR Strategy to Make News That Matters” and co-host of the “Beyond the Crucible” podcast. To learn more, visit

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