If you are a pastor wanting to be more self-aware, a saint hoping to understand your shepherd better, or a pastor who wants to understand other pastors better, this article is for you.
Pastors and preachers are people with personality strengths and weaknesses, just like everybody else. They’re anointed, and God called, but that doesn’t mean they lose their distinctiveness. Pastors are not monolithic. This diversity of personalities and leadership styles is helpful and necessary for the overall health of the Church.
I’m fascinated by personality studies. There are hundreds of them (I still prefer Why You Act the Way You Do? by Tim Lahaye). Like many teenagers, I was awkward with a touch of moroseness; understanding why people acted the way they worked helped me make sense of the world, and it still does (here’s a very brief online temperament test that tends to be scary accurate).
From a ministry leadership standpoint, having a grasp of basic personality types is invaluable. When you understand personality differences, you are less likely to be offended or caught off guard by common weaknesses. You spot strengths faster and see buried potential in people as well.
Even more importantly, understanding your own personality creates self-awareness. Knowing your temperament will help you avoid lots of grief. We’ve all worked alongside people who are entirely unaware of their flaws and overconfident about mediocrity. Or worse, they can’t see their tremendous potential. That lack of self-awareness is dangerous in a leadership paradigm.
I’m a pastor’s kid and a pastor. I’ve spent my whole life observing preachers and pastors from all around the world. I love pastors and have been blessed with the opportunity to interact with dynamic preachers regularly. Over the years, I’ve observed fourteen distinct pastoral leadership styles that directly result from personality types and influences. Most pastors and preachers are a mixture of several of these styles but predominated by one. Each of the styles listed below contains distinct giftings and shortcomings. I don’t think one type is any better than the other. What’s essential, regardless of which leadership style a personality enables, is that the strengths are cultivated, and the weaknesses are minimized.
My prayer is that this list will be helpful to pastors and maybe a few saints as well. Most problems between saints and pastors are nothing more than personality conflicts. Many saints misunderstand their pastor’s personality and find unnecessary offense and vice versa. I highly respect and honor every pastoral temperament and mean no disrespect by discussing them in this format. The Bible gives us snapshots of spiritual leaders from diverse backgrounds and emphasizes drastic differences between personalities. It’s still that way today.
So, let’s jump into the fourteen distinct pastoral personalities and their resulting leadership styles. Remember, as you read, you or your pastor are likely a blend of more than one of these styles, but one will outshine the others.
- The Theologian is a master of doctrinal dispositions and a student of Scriptural nuance. They are intensely smart. The Theologian is well versed in even the most obscure details of Scripture. Minutia matters in a big way to this kind of pastor. They’re likely to be a more introverted temperament with a strong sense of self-discipline. The Theologian’s quiet confidence and knowledge inspire and bring clarity to those around him.
Strengths: attention to detail, doctrinally sound, calming, focused, inspire spiritual confidence, produce well-rounded disciples, mentor other leaders, produce helpful resources, and hold the line against invading false doctrines. The Theologian is an irreplaceable and indispensable resource within the kingdom of God.
Weaknesses: The Theologian struggles with being heavy on information and light on application. They can be extremely introverted (check out this article for introverted leaders). At times, they borderline being extremely anti-social. The Theologian’s hyper sense of focus can easily be mistaken for unfriendliness. When teaching and preaching, the Theologian’s natural tendency is to remain bland and detached, making an otherwise powerful presentation low impact.
- The Teacher is much like The Theologian minus the extensive doctrinal savvy. That’s not to say they don’t have firm doctrinal grounding; they do. The Teacher fills an important and tragically underemphasized role as outlined in Ephesians 4:11-13. Although their ministry may seem less dynamic on the surface, nothing could be further from the truth. The Teacher grounds what other more extroverted ministries leave unfinished. In many cases, The Teacher is introverted, but not always.
Strengths: mentally disciplined, consistent, highly organized, carefully structured, well-rounded, dependable, typically compassionate, produces helpful resources, inspires confidence, exposes and corrects false doctrine, strengthens other ministers, and produces other ministries. The Teacher is extraordinarily dependable, trustworthy, and unflinchingly honest.
Weaknesses: usually lacks creativity, resists healthy changes, and struggles to engage people emotionally. The Teacher finds it challenging to be concise and naturally overloads people with more information than they can retain in one sitting. The Teacher’s high level of intelligence can unintentionally seem arrogant and condescending.
- The Authoritarian has an enormously outgoing and strong personality. This leadership style is usually coupled closely with one of the other personalities on this list. The Authoritarian has a top-down mindset. Authoritarians are confident, self-assured, and strong-willed (making them exceptionally gifted and effective preachers). They make an impression everywhere they go and are easily spotted in any setting. Authoritarians have a keen sense of right and wrong, loyalty and disloyalty, honor and dishonor, and law and order. They command respect and inspire others to do great things. Many of the great leaders in the Bible were authoritarians.
Strengths: brave, concise, competent, efficient, inspirational, self-disciplined, and confident. The Authoritarian inspires the kind of loyalty that generals have when leading troops into battle. They are fearless, focused, accomplished, disciplined, and courageous. They never do what the crowd is doing just because the crowd is doing it. They make fierce friends and worthy adversaries. They are a true leader in every sense of the word.
Weaknesses: ego, pride, unwillingness to change course when needed, tone-deaf, unkind, quick-tempered, and reckless. The Authoritarian struggles to accept wise counsel and respect the reasoned opinions of others. Because authoritarians are so often right, they don’t handle being wrong very well. Strong people are attracted to an authoritarian’s leadership. However, more sensitive people are easily wounded by The Authoritarians’ aggressive personality. Without meaning to, authoritarians occasionally harm gentler personalities without even knowing it. The Authoritarian naturally lacks compassion for weaker vessels. Because loyalty is so important to The Authoritarian, disloyalty (whether real or perceived) is met with overly punitive measures. Their mission mindedness makes them extremely useful in completing tasks but generally makes them lose sight of the feelings and emotions of the people around them.
- The People Person is a fascinating blend of introvert and extrovert. In the right setting, they are incredibly outgoing, but they become reticent in other settings. The People Person likes people, likes to be appreciated by other people, and wants people to like other people. They are talkative, emotional, engaging, charming, fun, humorous, witty, and networked. They thrive in a crowded room. They thrive off the energy of large groups. They dislike being alone. Their effervescent personality makes them terrific communicators. Their preaching often full of humor and down-to-earth relatability.
Strengths: passionate, compassionate, likable personality, excellent communication skills, super relatable, community builders, bring other personalities together (networking), very creative, open to ideas and opinions, make people feel loved, and big-hearted. The People Person operates on bursts of creative and emotional energy that is compelling and contagious. They always have big plans that usually includes bringing people together in one way or another. They are inclusive and exude self-confidence even when they don’t feel confident.
Weaknesses: quickly discouraged, easily offended, insecure, prone to bouts of melancholia, sometimes quick-tempered, disorganized, lack follow-through, forgetful, appear shallow, and enigmatic. The People Person has lots of big ideas but doesn’t implement them well because they continuously overlook “pesky” details. In worst-case scenarios, that same inattention to detail causes them to be doctrinally imbalanced. Because they love people deeply, they are also hurt deeply by people. The People Person seems confident but often wrestles with profound insecurities. Their desire to be liked can be detrimental when making difficult decisions. They handle rejection poorly. The People Person’s desire to be center stage may cause them to feel jealousy when others are in the spotlight. They privately battle depression, but most folks would never know it.
- The Orator: Although it does become a defining characteristic for many pastors, the Orator is not a standalone personality trait. Not all dynamic orators are great leaders, and not all great leaders are fiery orators. However, when the two are combined, it becomes incredibly potent. Biblically speaking, I think the apostle Paul was an example of a powerful orator (Acts 17:22-31). The Orator is demarcated as being an incredibly moving preacher and communicator. Regardless of their other traits, they have the uncommon innate ability and God-given anointing to move crowds via preaching. Their preaching calls people to repentance, builds faith, motivates change, encourages, convicts, and shapes entire generations. The Orator is not typecast into one personality or leadership style. Their gift crosses lines and spectrums. Some are incredibly inward, while others are highly outgoing. Some pour themselves out while preaching and finish empty and spent, while others are fueled up by preaching and end with a frenzy of energy. Regardless, their gift is usually in high demand.
Strengths: highly skilled communicators, heavily anointed, insightful, reflective, unique, inspirational, thought-provoking, culture shaping, smart, mentally organized, prepared, persuasive, influential, compelling, convincing, adept, well-read, forward-thinking, sensitive to the Spirit, and they exude confidence. The Orator often plays a crucial role in influencing movements and instigating revival on a large scale, even without official positions or titles.
Weaknesses: pride and ego are dangers that every spiritual leader must navigate, but this is especially true for The Orator. Because they are so gifted and well-liked, their egos can swell quickly. The Orator needs the anointing just like every other preacher, but they typically have natural abilities that could just as easily make them great politicians, salesman, motivational speakers, or actors. This means, if they aren’t careful, they will rely on their own ability rather than the Lord. Also, because powerful orators are in such demand, they may not always have time to develop other leadership skills before launching into public ministry. As the old saying goes, “not all great preachers make great pastors, and not all great pastors are great preachers.” Because orators love preaching and communicating so much, it’s often difficult for them to invest their time into developing other important attributes. However, when they do, they are amazingly impactful within the kingdom of God.
- The Nice Guy is just that, a nice guy. This person genuinely cares and has a sincerity that cannot be denied. They lead from a solid core of kindness. Their personality is gentle and calming. Everyone they meet feels loved. Everything they do flows from love. They can be introverted or extroverted, but meekness (not weakness) is their dominant trait. This kind of leader’s personality is usually coupled with a complementary style; typically, The Theologian, The Teacher, The Orator, The People Person, The Poet Performer, The Organizer, The Motivator, The Weeping Prophet, or The Dreamer. They reap a loyal following because of their sincere and warm demeanor. I imagine John the Beloved (John 19:26-27) as a biblical example of the Nice Guy.
Strengths: kindness, compassion, empathy, loyalty, sincerity, warmth, and relatability. Notwithstanding other flaws, much is forgivable with The Nice Guy because they are so likable. People are drawn to them like a magnet. Their love for others flows from their love for the Lord.
Weaknesses: on the surface, you wouldn’t think The Nice Guy could have flaws, but they do. They dislike confrontation more than the average leader, making them anemic in crisis situations where conflict is needed. They are often too slow to rebuke and correct, which causes problems to escalate that could have been alleviated. They are susceptible to being victimized by manipulators and blindsided by pretenders. The Nice Guy may shy away from necessary doctrines that might offend the hearers. In other words, sometimes they forget that love must often be tough.
- The Poet Performer is artistic, talented, and entertaining. David comes to mind as a biblical example of The Poet Performer (1 Samuel 16:16). The Poet Performer doesn’t necessarily have to be musical, but they are always creative, imaginative, and gifted in some artistic way (frequently, they are multi-talented). They are cerebral. Like David, they can also be a warrior, but they are predisposed to spiritual things. Praise and worship come as naturally as breathing to The Poet Performer. They are anointed in almost everything they do. They are emotional, sincere, and sensitive.
Strengths: Besides their talent, The Poet Performer is smart, intensely spiritual, focused, and passionate. Their worship compels others to worship. Their creativity helps others to experience God in dynamic and dramatic ways. They breathe life, energy, and passion into the Church. When The Poet Performer preaches, it is with cadence and rhythm, almost like a spoken song.
Weaknesses: Much like The Orator, The Poet Performer is prone to egotism and pride. They have so much innate talent that even if they stop depending on the Spirit, they can still manipulate a crowd’s emotions. They receive a lot of admiration (deservedly), which produces narcissism if not received correctly. The Poet Performer’s emotions fluctuate wildly (just read the Psalms), hysterically happy one minute and manically melancholy the next. Selfishness is another personal battle that many Poet Performers must fight.
Caveats: again, I feel compelled to mention that most ministers are not a perfect match to any of the above traits. The strengths and weaknesses are generalities, not absolutes. Also, commenting on weaknesses is not intended to be disrespectful or to help generate criticism. Rather, the intent behind this writing is to help us address issues with clarity and resolution. If you take the time to peruse the related articles below, you will find that I support apostolic ministry and believe that pastors should be vigorously defended. Saints, I believe you should give your pastor the benefit of the doubt and lift his arms when and where he is weak. Celebrate his strengths and honor his faithful service at every opportunity.