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Top 10 Most Important Leadership Competencies

February 1, 2019

What does it take to be a principled, Christian leader? What do strong leaders in the church need to be successful in 2019 and beyond? 

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church (UMC), commissioned ROI Institute, Inc. to study the top leadership competencies needed to meet future challenges faced by the UMC and Methodist-related institutions. The survey sample included 2,162 leaders in The United Methodist Church, including: ordained ministers, lay leaders, chaplains, Annual Conference leaders, and school, college and university faculty, administration and staff. 

The most important leadership competencies listed below are those where “Extremely Important” (i.e., a score of 5 on a 5-point scale) was the median or typical response.

Most Important Leadership Competencies:

  1. Integrity: Adherence to a strict moral or ethical code; being honest with oneself and others
  2. Trust: Do what one says; model the way
  3. Authenticity: Behave in a fashion that is consistent with one’s values and show vulnerability when appropriate
  4. Accountability: Willingly accept responsibility for one’s actions and outcomes
  5. Active Listening: Give full attention to what other people are saying; listen with mutual respect
  6. Adaptive Leadership: Mobilize people to take on tough challenges and thrive
  7. Adaptability: Adjust actions in relation to new situations, others’ actions or changes in the environment
  8. Transformational: Raise others to higher levels of morality and motivation
  9. Innovative Leadership: Create an environment that is safe to risk innovative change
  10. Cross-Cultural Competence: Effectively adapt in environments with people from different countries, regions, and who hold different values and viewpoints

To learn more about GBHEM’s research methodology, or to investigate your call into church leadership, contact Cynthia Howard at

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