“A living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecc. 9:4, The Message).

The spiritual landscape in the United States and around the world continues to undergo rapid, intense change. A major focus of debate is the nature of spiritual leadership.

For several decades there has been an intense emphasis on the person at the top of an organization. In fact, leadership has been defined almost exclusively as the person at the top. This is reflected in the controversy over disproportionate CEO pay.

Most leadership models tend to focus on the energy, visibility and will of the person at the top, but a change seems to be underway. A complementary discussion of the importance of the entire team—indeed, the entire congregation as mobilized and engaged followers/leaders—is gaining attention.

We tend to fixate on “lion leaders” who are charismatic and powerful. Strong leadership at the top is very important, but we need strong leadership throughout our ranks. Unless this becomes a primary goal of leadership, the potential and beauty of the church will be compromised.

Recently, Stephen Hacker and Marvin Washington did an interesting study of the hunting and social habits of wild dogs in Africa (New Directions in Team Effectiveness, presented at the University of Nebraska and Gallup Research Institute, June 2004, by Marvin Washington, Stephen Hacker and John Chuka). The researchers compared the hunting styles of zebras, cheetahs, lions and wild dogs. Contrary to what many people would expect, the kill rate is highest for wild dogs by a significant margin.

Lions are ferocious hunters, but they are fiercely competitive within their group. The adult males eat first and fend off the younger leaders, who are often left to forage on their own because they threaten the dominant male.

Wild dogs, on the other hand, are known as “communal predators.” They share the kill evenly among the entire pack and share leadership of the group. All adult members are called on to lead the hunt at one time or another. They have learned the lesson that you cannot make sound decisions unless you are at the point of attack. Because they rotate leadership, all the members of the pack are highly skilled.

Of course, we need designated leaders and structure, but we also need strong leadership throughout structure. Genuine spiritual leadership should be less celebrity-oriented and more focused on a culture of discipleship. The original “Jesus Movement” pivoted on a leader who commissioned a small group of friends to change the world, while He provided indirect guidance. And He is the Messiah!

The point is not that we need weaker leaders. We need strong leaders who are secure enough to multiply leadership by developing it and releasing it. “Pack leadership” from a spiritual perspective demands a renewal of the old-fashioned idea that a good leader must first be a good follower. Beware the leader who cannot follow but must always lead.

Please pray with me that the Lord will extend His grace and power in us as we share and multiply leadership.

By: Sam Rockwell, district supervisor of the Gateway District of The Foursquare Church