The 3 Types of People Every Leader Will Encounter

Photo by alex starnes on Unsplash

eadership, as I’ve written in the past, is not necessarily an enviable position. But for those called and positioned to lead there are three types of people you should be prepared to encounter:

The one who sees your potential before you do and helps position and/or recruit you for the opportunity — This person may have the gift of insight and foresight. As a result, they see your hidden (and possibly latent potential) and shift your perspective, encourage you to develop your potential, invite you into special spaces and offer resources that can help equip you for the journey to come. They may function as a mentor or sponsor in your life. The appropriate response to them is to recognize, acknowledge, appreciate and honor them. Gratitude truly is a gift that opens doors to spaces that would otherwise be cut off. The biblical model of this type of person is Samuel. He was sent out to recruit two different kings for Israel — Saul and later David.

Another type of person you are likely to encounter is one who recognizes your potential and fears it because you seem to pose a threat to their position — This person may also have the gift of insight and foresight. But unfortunately, their humanity limits their desire to offer you support. In fact, they will likely work to undermine your ability to lead as an attempt to retain control out of fear, jealousy and/or envy. Your response to this type is also to recognize them. But you must also be discerning about which battles you will choose to contest. The biblical model of this type is Saul. The text tells us David “sought God” when he was faced with opportunities to fight his enemies. God gave him specific instruction and knowledge about whether the outcome of each battle would be favorable toward David or not. You too must seek counsel — for who does not first consider the cost of waging war before engaging in it? Biblical texts also tell us that success comes through seeking counsel from many. So, in responding to the Saul(s) in your life, choose each battle wisely. Please remember, a jealous or envious person will not be able to block God’s purposes, although they can certainly make the path uncomfortable. Additionally, your humanity will desire to lash out and respond in a similar way to what you have experienced with your Saul(s). But we know what results when we fight fire with fire. More importantly, your suitability to lead others will be demonstrated by your commitment to kindness. Kindness is not the willingness to allow others to take advantage — it is a kindness that makes clear you know what and to whom you’ve been called, you’ve identified your Saul and you are fully committed to fulfilling your responsibilities without stooping to the level of those who oppose you.

Don’t hate me here but you can also be grateful for this type. For with every Saul lies the opportunity to become more empathetic, stronger and more discerning in your leadership.

If you read the biblical account in the Book of Samuel, we discover David found Saul in a very vulnerable position (while he was relieving himself in a cave). David’s warriors encouraged him to take full advantage of literally finding Saul with his pants down. But David chose not to. Through this choice we see no one was better suited to lead others and be king than a man willing to withstrain his powers to benefit others, even his enemy. Saul, after discovering David spared his life, describes David as more righteous than himself. He was right. And as Michelle Obama admonishes us, may you also choose to go high even when others go low. Also, if ever you have been a Saul (and perhaps that may be true of any one of us at different times in our lives), redemption and transformation are not only possible, but also offered to you today. May you choose to lead differently.

The last type of person you may encounter as a leader will be the person who sacrifices aspects of their position to benefit and support you. In the biblical account Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David so much he was willing to lie to his father to help David avoid the chance of being killed. Similarly, you may find someone uses their position, privilege and access to specific resources, intel and knowledge to help you avoid danger. The appropriate response to this person is to cherish them. Jonathans exist to remind you that saving and encouraging power is found in friendship. And we thank God for friends even in our places of work. They may not be friends for a lifetime, but their kindness is what is needed for seasons of testing every leader will encounter. I met a Jonathan who was the vice president of human resources of a nonprofit where I worked. We were not peers in age or profession, but he often offered me counsel. His advice helped me respond to an unhealthy work environment even though that environment was made unhealthy by some of the choices of his peers. I thank God for that Jonathan during that time, and I have no doubt he has continued to be a Jonathan to others. May you as well.

Here’s a point to keep in mind — age, race, class and/or gender need not be determining factors in identifying who functions in any of these roles. For instance, the Jonathan I described is white and in his 50s (if not 60s). Also, someone younger than you may mentor you in different seasons depending on their maturity and competence in certain areas.

If you have yet to encounter any of these types in your leadership journey, then I need to know how you’ve avoided them. You must have a special gift.

But if you’re like me and have encountered or will encounter any of these types, I encourage you to remain level-headed knowing that we can be grateful for each type. They all help prepare us to lead more effectively and with a greater commitment to compassionate servant leadership — the call to lead with empathy, a commitment to the flourishing of growth and joy in others (and ourselves), and ultimately for others to surpass us as they reach their highest potential.

May you be encouraged to lead well. In all seasons.



I’m a creative, a consultant and a social impact entrepreneur who loves to write about leadership, faith and joy. Founder, &

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Amelia Elizabeth

I’m a creative, a consultant and a social impact entrepreneur who loves to write about leadership, faith and joy. Founder, &