26 Leadership Skills and Traits for Church Music Directors

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What does it mean to be a leader? And what does it take to be a great one?

Leadership has been defined as “the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.” (source) Thus, a leader is one who inspires and directs that collective action.

This requires a certain set of skills and character traits, though experts indicate you can learn and develop these skills with time and experience. You don’t have to be born with all of these skills and traits to be a great leader.

"Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile." - Vince Lombardi

Leadership looks a little different in a church setting than it does in the business world. Most of the time, you’re not overseeing a group of employees or working to increase the bottom line.

In church music, leadership looks like motivating a group of volunteers, whether that’s a group of middle-aged or senior adults in your adult choir or a group of volunteers teaching and directing individual groups in your children’s choir program or a dozen teenagers in your youth choir.

It looks like working collaboratively with a staff (of 2 or 8 or 20). It looks like organizing committees and amateur instrumentalists and people who want to play handbells but can’t read music. It looks like sharing a common goal and inviting people of all walks of life to be part of that.

What does it take to be a great leader in these settings? Here are 26 church music leadership skills and traits for you to consider:

Personal Leadership Skills & Traits for Church Music Directors

This first section includes personal traits and characteristics that are useful in leadership settings. This is not an exhaustive list, but a good starting place. Remember, you can work to develop these skills - you don't have to be born with them.


the ability to see thing from multiple perspectives and generate innovative ideas and solutions


a deep-seated purpose and intention behind one’s work


leading oneself without guidance, structure, or oversight from someone else


seeking out ways to lift others up


the ability to make decisions


being aware and able to redirect in the moment

Lifelong Learner

the continuous pursuit of knowledge and development of new skills


the ability to work on one’s own


the capacity to handle things that don’t go as planned with grace and calmness


the ability to express and demonstrate one’s appreciation

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Professional Leadership Skills & Traits for Church Music Directors

This section includes more interpersonal skills and character traits that you might see in business settings, but I think they're also valuable for those of you in church music leadership positions.


the ability to speak articulately and write effectively to convey information


maintaining neatness, structure, and systems that help you work more efficiently and effectively as a group

Social Skills

the ability to speak, engage, and communicate with others


the ability to relate to others in a variety of situations


the ability to approach and speak calmly and directly to others when problems arise


showing admiration for another based on their abilities, character qualities, or achievement


to welcome others, regardless of their differences


predicting and anticipating what will happen and taking initiative


maintaining a certain level of excellence in preparation, teaching, musicianship, communication, and expectations

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Inspirational Leadership Skills & Traits for Church Music Directors

This final section includes skills and traits related to inspiring others - an important and perhaps even vital category of leadership for those of you in church music director positions.


the ability to draw out the will and desire in others to do their best work


showing a deep sense of commitment to one’s work


lifting others up with positive words and actions


the ability to be quiet and hear what others have to say


demonstrating a sense of internal drive and pursuit of growth


the ability to equip others with skills and confidence to do things on their own


establishing a sense of “assured reliance on [one’s] character, ability, strength, or truth” (source)

There are lots more leadership skills and traits I could have added to this list, but I think this is a good starting place for those of you in church music director positions. I hope this list is helpful to you as you think about ways to continue developing your leadership skills this year.

I'd love to hear: What do you consider your best leadership skills and traits? How have you worked to develop them?

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