Evangelist or Theologian
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Last week, I was in a coaching session with a young, recently promoted manager. As we discussed the challenge of getting people on board with his vision and plans, I said he needed to become an evangelist rather than a theologian. Immediately, I wrote down those two words. A good friend once said, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.” So, this was probably my one clever thought for the week. As I continued to think about this idea, I became more convinced that great leaders are evangelists.

If you look up the definition of an evangelist, you will find something like this: an evangelist is a preacher, specifically a Christian preacher. Evangelists are excited to tell everyone all over the world about Christianity. I love the part about being excited to tell everyone. On the other hand, the theologian would be: A person who has read and studied religious thought and ideas. Well, to me, that doesn’t sound all that exciting. Now, just because it doesn’t excite me doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Evangelists need theologians to study ancient texts and ensure the message the evangelist shares are valid.

So, what does this have to do with my favorite topic to write about, leadership? You can’t lead if you can’t inspire people to follow. Let’s take a look at three things that will help you become a Leadership Evangelist:

  1. You need to have been changed. Just as a Christian Evangelist needs to have had their life changed by the message they share, Leadership Evangelists needs to have been changed by good Leadership. You need to have experienced the power of focusing on developing the person more than the processes or systems. Your life-changing experience gives you the credibility to speak with passion and excitement. I often start my classes with my leadership crisis moment and how becoming a transformational leader changed my life at work and home.
  2. You need to believe in your vision. If you don’t believe it, don’t try to teach it. Authenticity is fundamental, and people will see through the façade.
  3. You need to be excited to tell everyone about your vision. If you aren’t excited about your vision, why should anyone else be? When people think of you, what is the first or second thing that comes to mind? If it isn’t your vision for the organization and the passion you have, you need to ask yourself what’s missing.

Let’s get back to the Evangelist and Theologian for a minute. As an evangelist, you still need to do your homework. As Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream Speech, he articulated many details and facts about our amazing country. He quoted scripture, song lyrics, and details from our nation’s founding documents. His passion allowed him to share these details with energy and excitement. On that hot August day in 1963, his speech was compelling and convincing. Dr. King was such a good evangelist, and his message was so true and is still compelling and convincing sixty years later.

Have you been changed? Do you believe in your vision? Are you excited about the good news of values-based Leadership? If so, maybe it’s time to preach!

And the congregation said, Amen!