The Leadership Conversation: Positional vs Relational Leadership

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailReading Time: 3 minutes

What kind of individual do you picture when you hear the word “leader”? Do you think of well-dressed men and women in a corporate board room? Perhaps instead you picture a pastor speaking to thousands of people at a mega-church, or even a missionary trekking through the jungles of the Amazon to reach a remote native tribe? While there are definitely some leadership positions that look like this, most often the people who exert the greatest influence in our lives do so through relational leadership rather than through positional leadership.

Positional vs Relational Leadership: What’s the Difference?

There are two basic types of leadership:

  • Positional leadership is how most people think of a leader. This kind of leader has a specific position, a formal title, and derives their influence and authority solely from this position.
  • Conversely, relational leaders are those who act without the formality of a title. Their influence and authority comes from the trust, respect, and love established in the relationships around them.

Our preconceived notions of positional leadership captures only a fraction of what God intended for us as leaders. Contrary to what most people might assume, you don’t need a title or a formal position to be a leader. All you need is Christ—for in Him you are re-created to lead in your everyday spheres of influence. You don’t need to be a pastor or a CEO to influence people—all you need is the grace and truth of Christ’s salvation being reflected in your life.

Our preconceived notions of leadership are small and narrow compared to the fullness of God's plan. - Mary Meadows Share on X

How does God Shape Relational Leaders?

This is the question explored in Artios’ introductory course Essentials of Vibrant Leadership. God uses every facet of our lives to shape our leadership journey. He works through our personality, experience, family situation, cultural setting, and every other particularity that makes us unique. Amazingly, God is shaping each one of us into individual and completely unique leaders.

So don’t worry if your life isn’t in alignment with your subconscious definition of leadership. After all, there will always be talented individuals that God calls into positional leadership roles, but we need to realize that not everyone is called to be a pastor or a missionary. Maybe, God has placed you in a unique position to use your specific relational influence to further His Kingdom.

God has placed each of us in a unique context to influence people for His Kingdom. - Mary Meadows Share on X

The Artios Model

As followers of Christ, we are recreated to lead. In 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Paul explains this re-creation and describes our newfound role as ambassadors for Christ:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Artios Christian College embraces an equipping model of leadership. Therefore, our goal is to equip each unique leader to recognize their potential for relational leadership and embrace their spheres of influence.

Here to take a deeper look at the difference between positional and relational leadership are the co-directors of Artios Christian College, Israel Steinmetz and Amber Mann Riggs.

Are you ready to become intentional about your leadership calling?

Mary Meadows

As an unashamed bibliophile and word enthusiast, it’s rare to see Mary without a book in her hand. When she’s not exploring dusty library shelves, you can find her enjoying the capricious Michigan weather with her faithful German Shepherd, Dakota.