The Color Of Leadership

The Color Of Leadership

This article on leadership teams comes from lead pastors Steve Holt and Daniel Rolfe of Mountain Springs Church in Colorado Springs, CO. Steve is founder of a leadership network called Word & Spirit Network that has a vision for planting new churches.

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The Luke/Acts Leadership Paradigm

Jesus never intended us to go solo in leadership.  The Bible books of Luke and Acts contain a paradigmatic structure for team leadership.

In a nutshell, from Luke 4 to 9, Jesus recruits his missional team and models the mission.  By Luke 10, Jesus sends out his leadership teams with two leaders per team to carry out his mission.  The results were extraordinary as the men came back with stories of miracles and mighty works flowing through their hands.  It was obvious to these men that the fundamental value of Jesus’ ministry commissioning was team leadership.

The book of Acts continues the principles of Jesus’ team leadership paradigm. Even though Peter is the main spokesman in Acts 2, it is the “apostles’ teaching” (plural) that draws and builds the church (Acts 2:42).  It is Peter and John that venture out and pray for a lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3); it is Peter and John that are arrested and brought before the council (Acts 4).

In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit calls out Barnabas and Saul to take the gospel to the Gentiles. From Acts 13 through Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas work together with amazing results.  Paul obviously experienced the synergy of this relationship because, even in the midst of a disagreement with Barnabas, he quickly recruits Silas as his replacement. The Paul and Silas team continues through Derbe and Lystra, even adding Timothy to the team. This team leadership structure continues on with Luke joining the team in Luke 21.  (It is noteworthy that the only exception to the rule is when Paul is left alone in Athens, and it is there that Paul has one of his most disappointing ministry experiences.)

Purple Leadership

In every situation of team leadership, two-by-two leadership and group leadership in Luke and Acts, we observe men with completely different styles and personalities working together on a common mission.  Can you imagine the differences between Barnabas (known for his inclusive encouragement) and Paul (known for his exclusively high standards) being matched for positive results in church planting? Consider how God used the differences of Peter (the impetuous preacher) and John (the affectionate team player) for his glory and the expansion of his kingdom.

Purple leadership is the process of matching uniquely and diversely gifted leaders together on the same team in order to create a stronger team with greater potential for kingdom success.

What is purple leadership?  Purple is not a primary color but a secondary color with a range of hues occurring between red and blue.  In additive light combinations, it occurs by mixing the primary colors red and blue in varying proportions.  Purple leadership is the result of two primary leaders with different gifts, different anointing, and different personalities; one being a red leader and the other a blue. The new color palette results in leveraging each leader’s strengths while minimizing weaknesses. The result is new leadership: a purple leadership team.

Unfortunately, most churches function under the leadership of a solitary red or blue leader. The first step for any leader in this type of position is to recognize the essential nature of an ancient form of synergistic leadership.

We can only recognize the need for leadership teams when we realize that each of our unique gift sets come with blind spots. Some leaders are truly gifted in areas of team development, organizational health, and communication. Other leaders are gifted in areas of teaching, visionary leadership, and pioneering.  The best way to move a church body towards healthy life transformation and kingdom growth is to generate a shift in leadership. Through a color palette merger, individual leaders become stronger leaders because they have other leaders with different gifts to fill the void left by their weaknesses.

Why Purple Leadership Works

The Purple Leadership Paradigm includes five key aspects that explain why this leadership team approach is biblical and effective for accomplishing the Great Commission.

1. Complementary Gifts

THE starting point in the paradigm is a biblical understanding of spiritual gifts.  Both leaders must know themselves and know what he or she brings to the team. When each leader knows their “sweet spot,” the shared leadership roles will merge with ease. This merger is called synergy.  The strengths of one leader must minimize the weakness of the other leader and vice versa. 

2. Common Mission

Both leaders MUST theologically understand and passionately embrace God’s missional heart.  Leaders much demonstrate a desire and strategy for cultivating a covenant congregation that has a global vision for training and empowering indigenous leaders in order to multiply disciples throughout all people groups until the Great Commission task is complete. The longer leaders work together on the same team, the more experience they will accumulate through adaptation of a contextualized vision and strategy. Furthermore, as leaders are empowered by the other leader(s) on the team to work exclusively in their areas of strengths, the level of excitment and passion for accomplishing God’s global mission will become more practical and engaging for those whom the leaders lead.

3. Chemistry And Trust

Leaders cannot work together without trust. Both leaders must be completely committed to believing the best of each other. They must comprehend that when one succeeds, both succeed. When one hits a homerun, the other is running the bases with him. When each leader experiences the value of the other’s differences, the team chemistry will result in greater trust.  With greater trust comes greater effectiveness. With greater effectiveness comes greater confidence. With greater confidence comes greater boldness. With greater boldness comes greater influence. With greater influence comes greater results.

4. Constant Communication

A Purple Leadership Team only functions when there is a constant flow of honest and intentional communication. Consulting becomes crucial in problem-solving. When trouble is on the horizon, the sum of four eyes, two brains and mutual respect can avert potential catastrophe.  When one is weak, the other is strong. When both are strong in the right areas, spiritual fruit is not far behind.  When both leaders are weak, danger knocks at the door, and the first thing to go on any leadership team is honest, intentional, and consistent communication.

5. Courage In Difficulties

Because God designs people differently, each leader sees life from a different perspective and worldview. This diversity of perspective is a great asset during those times when someone has felt pain or disappointment in ministry. Any leader who has engaged in leadership for long can testify to the changing nature of influence. Leaders can feel crushed over a failure only to have the other leader on their team actually excited over the same experience or situation. Purple is a much better color than red or blue. Leaders must give courage to each other, and the regular practice of giving courage to one another bears courageous behavior during tough times and spiritually stagnant seasons.


The color of leadership is whatever color God is painting in your ministry world. We could not more highly recommend a shared leadership approach.  Primary colors do not have the beauty, complexity and depth of a blended hue. We believe that the color of the shared leadership approach will make you a better person, a more effective leader, and enable you to achieve the vision God has planted in your heart.  The veins of Christian leaders should bleed purple.

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