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Christian Leadership Matters — How to Lead Like Fred Astaire!

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, and Consulting

I use to think (and even taught) that I would never ask anyone in my ministry to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do. There is (almost) nothing in Church work that I haven’t done at one time or another. More than once, I vacuumed the sanctuary at 6 am on a Sunday morning. I’ve washed windows, been responsible for taking out trash, been the musician on Sunday morning, preached, taught the Adult Class, and, at the end of the day, the one who locked all the doors and set the alarm.

Although the principle might sound noble or even spiritual, I was cheating a lot of people by being the one-man-show.

Ministry is an “us” event. And a leader that isn’t willing to equip, deploy and trust others as partners in ministry isn’t doing their job. But in order for that to happen, the leader needs to understand his/her unique role and know when to step in and when to step aside. Leadership is like dancing a waltz not a military maneuver (or a one-man-show).

The Duet Dance Studio in Chicago provides great lessons in ballroom dancing. [You can find their website here:] Their front page not only gives good dance advice, but also good leadership advice by providing the answers on “HOW TO LEAD LIKE FRED ASTAIRE


  1.    Maintain a Strong Frame

Szewai, the author of the article, states: “The dance frame is the most important thing in lead and follow as it helps you maintain the connection between you and your partner. Your frame should be firm and steady at all times.”

As a leader, know your strengths, take the lead. Your “dance partner,” the one(s) you are leading, need to have confidence in you and what you are trying to accomplish. Good dance leaders engender trust with their partner. For that to happen, you must know who you are, where you are going and have confidence in yourself.

  1.    Take Decisive Steps

“Accidents often happen when the driver isn’t sure where he/she is going and is being hesitant with his/her moves” writes Szewai. Good leaders know their organizational direction; they know their objectives and take strategic steps toward accomplishing those objectives.

  1.    Lead with Your Body

Leaders must be “all in.” Good leaders, like good dancers, don’t have the luxury of merely telling others what to do; leaders lead by what they do, not only by what they say. People may not be able to articulate why they know their leader is completely committed, but most people do know that a leader is committed. Good leaders (to use a cliche) “walk the walk.”

  1.    Be Gentle

Leadership, like dancing, should be enjoyable, rewarding, and even fun. Good leadership is also enjoyable, rewarding and fun for those we lead. If not, there’s something wrong. Too many Christian leaders don’t lead like Fred Astaire, but mandate like Genghis Khan or “fiddle while Rome burns.” Being gentle doesn’t mean you have low ministry standards, but neither does it mean we throw someone off the dance stage if they step on our toes now and again.

  1.    Listen to Music

This is the most important part to Christian leadership, listen to and follow the music. Every Christian has a copy of The Score, God’s Word. God’s Score is conducted by His Holy Spirit, and Christian leaders keep their ears open and closely follows the conductor’s lead. When we dance to a different tune, we’re out of step with God’s Spirit and the people we are called to lead become confused, and toes are mashed and people trip and fall — including the leader.

Jesus certainly danced well, even better than Fred! His dance moves were innovative and for the casual spectator, often unexpected. Here are some of the ways Jesus taught by example how to “dance” the leadership dance:

  • He Chose unlikely partners, some with poor resumes, even those with poor people skills; but Jesus invested Himself into the lives of these unlikely characters and grew His Church.
  • Though God-in-the-flesh Jesus still washed His followers stinky feet. He loved His people and demonstrated true Christian leadership.
  • Jesus always had laser-focused vision; He encouraged His people to do the same.
  • The disciples were partners in the Gospel; they were co-heirs with Christ. His disciples were given great responsibility as well as ownership and trust.
  • Jesus constantly spent time listening to The Music; praying and listening to His Father and doing His will.
  • People were more important to Jesus than human traditions, rules, customs and regulations.
  • Jesus expected a lot from those who followed Him, but He was also eager to forgive and trust again.

I know ministry isn’t always fun and games. Serious and difficult work needs to be done and there will be times when we we will cry out as did the Psalmist and ask: “How long, Oh, Lord, How long?” At the same time, however, no matter what happens, God has given each of us something that no one can ever take away from us. In Christ, we have forgiveness, His continued presence and Divine Hope. And no one and no thing can ever take that away from us.  

I encourage you, dear reader, to lead with that joy no one can take away, fully confident in who you are in Christ, and proceed forward in your ministry full of faith in the One who has redeemed you and has entrusted to you the opportunity to bring about that same joy in those we are called to serve. May God grant each of us grace in Christ Jesus!

Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes
Christian Leadership Matters blog each week. Christian Leadership Matters is a weekly blog that seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry with which they are connected. As “The Higher Calling Coach,” Dr. Pledger helps Professional Church Workers and the ministries they serve find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

If you don’t want to miss his blog posts, sign up for his newsletter at: Email Coach Phil at: if you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question.

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