What is the essence of leadership? What does it mean to lead players? To lead teammates? To be a team captain? To be a great coach?

Here are a few types of leaders you might find on your coaching staff or team.

The dictator. He is all business, all the time, whipping everyone into shape, berating anyone who dares cross him.

The politician. He tries to make everyone happy, thinking he’s smart enough to persuade everyone to get on board with his agenda.

The motivator. He makes speeches, stays positive, yells clichés, and tries to keep everyone excited.

The example. He’s the one who never really says anything, just tries to do what’s right, and hopes everyone else notices, appreciates it, and imitates him.

While all of those have their place, none of them is a complete leadership profile, a complete toolkit. The true leaders are simply those with influence.

Proverbs 25:15 gives us some insight into how influence is garnered: By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.

A true leader, a true influencer, is different from most others. His approach, as highlighted by this verse, is unique.

The influencer earns respect. He doesn’t demand it or expect it just because he’s the coach, the captain, or the senior on the team.

The influencer has tremendous patience. He’s willing to put up with more than others, willing to endure difficult times, willing to not have everything be his idea.

The influencer knows how to treat each person as a person, not just as a means to an end. He looks for ways to connect on and off the field with those under his leadership.

The influencer’s words matter and he uses them wisely. He doesn’t have to yell and scream all the time to make his point. He doesn’t have to curse everyone in hearing distance to show how serious he is. He speaks honestly, transparently, patiently, respectfully, and intentionally.

A true leader is an influencer, not just a dictator, or motivator, or politician, or example.

Lord Jesus, make me a player/coach of influence. Help me to lead as you would, with patience and grace. In all my leading, may it be about bringing honor to you and not glory to me. Amen.