Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive (NKJV)
Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. (NLT)
Obey your leaders and submit to them (NASB)
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. (NIV)
The NIV adds the word "authority" to the text where there is no word to represent it in the Greek.
Three words are mistranslated in Hebrews 13:17. First I will give the definition of the English word then I will give the definition of the Greek word that is actually in the text.
English word: Obey- To carry out or fulfill the command, order, or instruction of.
Greek word: peitho- to persuade; to be persuaded
English word: Leader(s)- A person who leads; One occupying the first or foremost position.
Greek word: hegeomai-those who lead/guide. It is a verb while leader is a noun. The verb translated properly can be defined as a person/those who lead(s) but the noun leader can and does also give the idea of "One occupying the first or foremost position." I prefer the word guide as opposed to lead because lead has an inherent authoritarian perception coupled with it.
English word: Submit- To give in to the authority, power, or desires of another
Greek word: hupeiko- to yield, to give in to. This Greek word only appears once in the NT. The word hupotasso is the primary word for submit in the NT and is not used here.
Be persuaded by those guiding you, and be yielding; for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them watch over you with joy and not with grumbling, for this would be unprofitable for you.
This is essentially saying to be persuadable, to not be prideful but to be yielding. Allow those with wisdom to guide you to truth. Listen to the trustworthy. Those who watch over & guide others are to do so joyfully and willfully not with grumbling. We are not to cause them to grumble by our unwillingness to yield.
This verse DOES NOT say that there are leaders in positions or offices who we must obey on the basis of their authority. There is ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST!
There is no "man of God" who has legitimate authority over other people. There is no guiding or guarding without relationship. If someone is not actually guiding you personally, if that person is not alert to the condition of your life, then that person is not keeping watch over your soul!
Be responsive to those who guide you. Listen to their counsel. They are those who are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the supervision of God and His truth.
For more on Hebrews 13:17 as well as a look at every place the word "leaders" is used in the New Testament (all 4!) read this teaching: The Word Leaders in the New Testament