4 Leadership Qualities That People Will Follow

What gives a leader that type of draw that people will follow to the end of the world? Have you ever wondered that?


There seem to be certain breeds of leaders that foster others getting in line behind them. They esteem their leader. They respect their leader. And they buy in to the vision of the leader.

I recall when I was in Oregon, working in the retirement plan industry, my direct up-line was that type of person. I was motivated to follow him, fight for him, and perpetuate his vision. 

So are there tangible elements of this kind of leader? Are there specific qualities or traits that I could emulate that would give me the most opportunity to be an influential person?

I definitely believe there are. There are many that could be noted, but here are four that create a sort of “package.” And they all come from an interaction that King David had with his men.

I was recently reading through 2 Samuel 23 – King David is giving his last words as he gets ready to part from this world. And following his words is a recollection of David’s mightiest warriors. And among that group are his three special ops forces known as “The Three.”

Here is the story:

13 Once during the harvest, when David was at the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 14 David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

15 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. 17 “The Lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.

As I read this story, I began to ask the question “What made David the sort of leader to which his followers could be this loyal?” There was more than just the spoils of war going on in this scenario.

As I began looking at the passage more closely, I found four qualities about David where the end result were loyal and committed followers.

A leader who was not demanding

As king and as commander of his armies, David had the right to ask his men to do anything for him, including retrieving some of the refreshing water of Bethlehem. 

But he didn’t. It does not appear that was even on David’s mind. And I do not see where David was trying to use some words of manipulation with his men.

“If I just had a loyal warrior who was willing to do a small favor for the king.” None of that.

If you want committed and loyal followers who will follow you into the valley, being demanding is not the way to do it. Oh you  might have people jump at your every command by demanding service of them, but you will never have people who will give you their hearts.

Are you demanding? Would people say that your agenda is primarily what is front and center? Has your power or authority became your defining characteristic instead of your service?

A leader who exhibited gratitude

What his Three did in getting water for David was nothing short of heroic. Here their leader is thirsty and that is enough to stir these men to action, break through enemy lines, and secure some water for their king.

David does not just refuse the water. No, he makes a big deal out of this. David realized the risk that his men took for him and he is overcome. In other words, he recognized what had been done for him.

Do you celebrate the good things done by those you lead? Or has faithfulness, strength, creativity, and getting the job done just seen as what should be expected?

Faithfulness. Check.

High motivation. Check.

David paused and made sure that his men knew he was extremely thankful for what they had done. 

Are you looking for ways to celebrate another? Or are you more wired to find what is not going right? Do you know what loyalty looks like? What integrity looks like? Is it valuable to you? If so, then make sure you have much praise for those who model it. Your 25 cents of investment will yield tens of dollars of return and commitment to following you.

A leader who valued his men

This is one trait that I love about David. He truly loved his warriors and valued them.

This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.

Do you have high regard for those you lead? And do they know this about you? Or do you just value the job getting done or the task getting completed?

People are not to be valued merely for the contribution they make to a targeted success; rather, as hands of the gospel, our value for them goes much higher: they are created in the image of God Himself.

A leader who modeled humility

Though I am impressed with David’s Three and the lengths they went to ensure the king was taken care of, I am more affected by the overall display of humility by a warrior king. There are many ways David could have responded.

“You did what? Why would you do such a stupid thing and put yourself in jeopardy?”

“Thanks guys, but I am not thirsty right now.”

“Hey thanks.”

David’s response, though, speaks to a leader who did not take his people nor their actions for granted. Nor did he have expectations just because he was the guy in charge.

He modeled meekness and respect.

Do these four traits define you? Would those you lead say these are characteristics of your leadership? And if not, why not?

As a leader, I can view those I lead as the capital needed to get a project done, or I can view those I lead as investments along a road of many opportune engagements.

You cannot require loyalty, commitment, and steadfastness from your people. But you can model certain characteristics that will work the soil for these types of fruits to grow.

Are people motivated to follow your leadership?



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