Erwin McManus: Why Real Leaders Shape the Future

Like Us

"Whoever is creating the emerging culture is the leader, period."

Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of leaders rise and fall.

I’ve seen unassuming leaders succeed and great talents fail.

It has been, to say the very least, a strange curiosity to watch it all unfold over the years.

Only in retrospect could all of this have been foreseen.

Still, we continue to search for leadership secrets like the forty-niners of old panned for gold.

The title or designation of leader comes to us from many unexpected and unrelated ways.

Sometimes a great invention turns a person into a leader. Sometimes a great idea defines the leader. The invention of a great product from which a great company emerges brings its founder into leadership in their particular field.

On many occasions, it is a great cause that forges a leader.

In critical moments, it is a great crisis that causes a leader to rise out of obscurity.

It’s strange, but to become the leader of the free world, you need to be able to win elections. This also qualifies you to be commander in chief without ever having known combat or even studied military strategy.

We attribute the status and qualities of leadership to individuals who have found themselves in leadership roles without perhaps ever demonstrating any significant leadership acumen. We call pastors leaders.

It’s a heavy burden.

Rarely is it quantified.

Pastors are the best of people; but not often the best of leaders.

It is important for us to reclaim the role and definition of leadership, especially when it comes to the movement of Christ and the revolution He started over 2000 years ago.

What exactly do we mean by leadership?

Erwin Raphael McManus is an author, speaker, activist, filmmaker and innovator who specializes in the field of developing and unleashing personal and organizational creativity, uniqueness, innovation and diversity. In other words, he gets bored really easily. Erwin also serves as the primary communicator and cultural architect of Mosaic in Los Angeles. He is the author of An Unstoppable Force, a Gold Medallion Award finalist; Chasing Daylight; Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul; The Barbarian Way; Stand Against the Wind, Soul Cravings, and Wide Awake. He also serves as a Research Advisor with The Gallup Organization. He and his wife Kim live in Los Angeles have two children, Aaron and Mariah, and a foster daughter Paty.

More from Erwin McManus or visit Erwin at

Please Note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, uncivil and off-topic. Read a detailed description of our Comments Policy.
  • Andrew

    Huh? Why is this guy still speaking and teaching? And throwing in the Name of Jesus for credibility? Is the bulk of this article biblical and God’s will? Please stop borrowing Jesus Name to advance your own agenda.

    • amos8

      He is still speaking, teaching, and is popular because it is trendy to be anti-Church and anti-Christian (at least anti-conservative church/Christian). Truth is not so important, what matters is being “missional” and accepted by the culture that does not like (or hates) Christ. Many leaders have fallen for this, or at least have not discerned what is really going on (or the agenda of E.M. and the emerging church).

  • Bruce

    “when our hermeneutic becomes theological rather than missional we lose our way”??? I believe our theology guides the way. Mission is lost without it.

    • @pastortomweaver

      You are correct, but Erwin’s premise is correct. Many times theology becomes an end point not a catalyst

  • paul dzubinski

    I like this list at the end when we see the “inner life” of the leader as having a deep spirituality focused on loving and following Jesus. Given that, I find the list quite encouraging.

  • RetiredAirman

    Love this guy. He writes great books.

  • David

    Jesus has already created the culture and the future. Leaders in the church lead when they lead people to follow Christ, not “create a culture/future.”

  • Peter Mahoney

    “When our hermeneutic becomes theological rather than missional we lose our way.”

    I think if McManus read this gem and pondered it for 24 hours or so, he might have made some better word choices. I understand what he’s saying… the context makes it clear, but the way it was written I have to reject it out of hand.

    Theology has to break out of the cold sterile environment of academics and become practical, applicable, relational, and ultimately missional. Good theology will always drive a Christ-Follower to live out the Great Commission and Great Commandments… to be world visionary, world impacting, reproducing disciples.

  • Eo Utnac

    If we are “the Alamo,” then we must remember the Alamo was a Catholic Mission which was overrun by them who were NOT seeking the conversion of the masses but seeking their land. Do not care for the poor analogy. To many, Manifest Destiny was only the illegal taking of lands either belonging to Native Americans or to Mexico.

    • Derwin L. Gray

      Good sir, I believe Erwin was using the Alamo analogy of what a leader is not. He would agree with you.

  • Guest

    Although I dont this author is a genuine christian, but I love idea that a leader creates human communities. Indeed as often said, the purpose of leadership is to influence a group of people to accomplishing a goal, in our case to win souls or deepen the faith of those in the church.

  • audie

    Good luck finding any of that in the Bible. Seems rather like a whole lot of ego-bolstering rhetoric.

  • jandvicki

    Excellent Article. McManus puts into words the frustration of many churches and organizations. Just because you have the position of leader doesn’t mean you’re a leader. His list, that defines a leader, is inspiring.

    I like the fact that he has recognized and put into words that leaders do create culture and future for “human communities”. Every time a leader makes a decision concerning direction and behavior for a “human community” he or she is creating culture and future for that organization.

  • Nancy J.

    Lately, in the midst of moving into the area of church planting, I began to examine through biblical reading, what is a leader/pastor to look like and how are they to serve. This morning I read Erwin’s thoughts and found that yes, I agree with his thoughts on what is a leader. To me this definition is not peppered with fancy jargon or heavy theological words. He brings his definition down to short sentences that we can all understand without endless hours of teaching. For sure, I am printing this!

  • Alban

    Qui Est Veritas?

    • amos8

      “Whoever is creating the emerging culture is the leader, period.”

      That is quite an emphatic and absolute declaration. But it is not true, or wise.

      In fact, it is horribly deceptive and destructive.

      Even Jesus did not “create the emerging culture” while He lived. Therefore, was He not a “leader”? Or a poor leader? We know that He was constantly mocked, misunderstood, attacked, and killed … by the “emerging culture.”

      Perhaps Jesus’ agenda/the church’s agenda is different from “leading” (at least how the world and this article/author understands things)?

      Jesus did not tell us that Christians will or should “create the emerging culture.” He warned us of false teachers, to not be deceived, and that we WILL be “hated” by the “emerging culture” for following His Word. (see Ephesus in Acts 19)

      Christianity and God’s Word of truth will never “create” or dominate “the emerging culture” (Matt 7:13-14; Jn 3:19-21; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Jer 17:9).

      Also, this author’s “emerging culture” is roughly equivalent to the “emerging church” (an “anti-Christian” movement that blames and hates “conservative Christians/churches”). So before we get excited about this statement, author, article we should go a little deeper in understanding what is really meant.

      “My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ. Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.” -Erwin McManus [Christian Examiner]

      • beachpreacher

        Sounds like some of your sacred cows have been attacked. You also have made some pretty “emphatic” and “absolute” statements which seem to be based, to some extent, on your own preferences. It seems as though you already have a strong opinion against the writer so that you are unable or unwilling to understand what he is saying. I am for someone who is tired of religion but wants to promote a “movement of Jesus Christ.” Jesus spoke many times of our relation to the world as Christ followers and the fact that we should not love its ways or be conformed to it. But, He also came into the world and became a part of it because of His love for it. The world is not the planet but the people. I would rather show them the love of Christ than “Christianity as a world religion.” P.S. Don’t be so angry. You may live longer.beachpreacher

        • amos8

          Thanks for writing (here and there), but I’m more than a little befuddled by your words/judgments. I appreciate you attempting to challenge me, but your accusations/false judgments of me of me are, well, perplexing.

          It seems that you have judged that anything/most things I say are bad and wrong, and my intent is also wrong and “angry.” And those of the author(s) is right, or merely a matter of “disagreements” … not right or wrong.

          But, at the same time, you are condemning me as wrong (where is the “disagreement” card?) and rebuking me for correcting/pointing out error here (and in the other article) … and MIS-judging my intent.

          In this way, I can never do right, and you and those you are defending can never do wrong.

          And, if I protest, you have nailed me/my heart as just being “angry.” Are you saying you don’t see any problem here (other than me)?

          I’ve hate plenty of disagreements here (and other places), and they have been handled great by all parties, but I can’t remember when I have seen someone step up to defend certain individuals as you have done here.

          If something is in error, we have a loving responsibility to do something about it!

  • Pastor Gary

    After 22 years as the founder and pastor of the same church, I continue to relearn the same lesson at every stage of the process: Real leadership is simply about taking risks and growing into a vulnerable, transparent, honest follower of Jesus that God uses to inspire others and build a community of more Christ-followers. PS, Why does Erwin look so depressed in this mug shot?

  • Bev Murrill

    Absolutely fantastic expose of leadership. Thanks Erwin.


WATCH: Tom McDaniels: Death Words

“God has spoken life over you and not death over you.”