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How Our Future Is Informed by Five Ancient Leadership Archetypes

Lately, I have been mulling over the principle of ‘five-fold’ leadership found in Biblical writings. (Now, just because I used the “B-word”, don’t shut me out…yet.) It has become blatantly apparent to me that this concept also has powerful implications for the practice of business leadership. One thing I have learned in life…the future shall be informed by the ancient.

Alan Hirsch is one of the most influential thinkers and mission-strategists in the present-day Christian church. He is a counter-cultural voice, even for the Church, who challenges the status quo to consider the fact that the cultural influence of the Christian Church is in decline. He argues that in order to address cultural changes, it is important to return to the most basic fundamentals of the movement. Hirsch suggests to return to the ancient writings of the Apostle Paul to recover leadership principles required to envision and navigate the future of movement.  

These are lessons from which any movement leader can learn. The Apostle Paul is considered to have been divinely inspired when he wrote more than half the books in the New Testament. His influence in charting a theological path for the Christian church is without question.

Around the years 60-62 AD, Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Ephesus. Contained within these writings was a description of five models of leadership, or five-fold ministry:

"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the Church; the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ."

In his book, The Forgotten Ways – Reactivating the Mission Church, Hirsch describes this fivefold model of leadership as APEST, an acronym for Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers, as follows:

  1. “APOSTLES extend the gospel…They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally.”
  2. “PROPHETS know God’s will…they bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture…they question the status quo.”
  3. “EVANGELISTS recruit…these infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause.”
  4. “SHEPHERDS nurture and protect…caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples.
  5. “TEACHERS understand and explain.  Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine.”

It is important to understand that the primary purpose for these leaders gifted in these five areas is to equip members of the movement. Their gifts, or specialties, are not designed to operate in a silo of focus, but rather to empower others to learn and then carry out the real work.

So, let’s imagine for a moment (or several), that these same areas of giftedness in the church can also be applied as archetypes in the marketplace.

Here’s what I mean;

  1. THE PIONEERS (Apostle) are the most entrepreneurial of the archetypes. They are constantly thinking of how they can launch new solutions to old problems, create new products, or build new companies. They see possibilities long before anyone else can, they connect the dots between disparate ideas, and they are not afraid to take great risks in the hopes of great reward. These are the founders, inventors, creatives, and explorers of the world.
  2. THE FUTURISTS (Prophet) are the forward-thinking and strategic leaders. If the Pioneers want to take their movement from A to Z, then the Futurists will challenge them to think about charting a roadmap to get there. It is very common for their to be tension between the Pioneers and the Futurists. The Futurists hate duct-tape solutions because, while they take care of the immediate need, they actually represent a dysfunction in team and strategy. These are the management consultants, analysts, trend spotters, and strategists of the world.
  3. THE RAINMAKERS (Evangelist) are compelling communicators. They have ability build rapport, discern the true need of their audience, communicate a value proposition that resonates, and convert ‘browsers to buyers’. Their ability to add to the fanbase and bottom line of the movement is unequaled. These are the sales professionals, storytellers, marketers, and recruiters of the world.
  4. THE SHERPAS (Shepherd) guide and steward their teams through a journey. They have been around a while so they have suffered some brain damage and battle scars along the way. This experience and expertise will help to inform the people they guide. They understand that there is an end-goal and they will provide guidance, confidence, and tools to get there. These are the managers, consultants, and advisors of the world.
  5. THE TRAINERS (Teacher) provide plans and instruction.  Think of a personal trainer who helps you on the road to physical fitness.  They will assess you, inform you, keep you accountable and address your questions.  They love to see results in your life.  Their payday comes when you are able to achieve your results even if they have slap your wrist a time or two.  These are the coaches, instructors, teachers, and sages of the world.

When you’ve been around a while, you will understand that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.  It pays to learn from models of leadership from the past.  They greatest leaders are learners.

Which of the five archetypes above most resonates with you?  It’s entirely possible to exhibit a hybrid of archetypes in your leadership based on your context. What are your thoughts about this idea of a fivefold model of leadership?

Photo courtesy of Disney