Developing Leadership

I’m reading J. Oswald Sanders’ classic Spiritual Leadership this week. In his chapter Can You Become a Leader, he has a list of diagnostic questions that got me thinking and wondering about myself.

After dealing with the unique attributes of a spiritual leader Sanders turns to natural leadership qualities:

Natural leadership qualities are important. Too often these skills lie dormant and undiscovered. If we look carefully, we should be able to detect leadership potential. And if we have it, we should train it in and use it for Christ’s work. Here are some ways to investigate your potential:

  • Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead others, you must master your own appetites.
  • Do you keep self-control when things go wrong? The leader who loses control under adversity forfeits respect and influence. A leader must be calm in crisis and resilient in disappointment.
  • Do you think independently? A leader must use the best ides of others to make decisions. A leader cannot wait for others to make up his or her mind.
  • Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it? The humble person can learn from petty criticism, even malicious criticism.
  • Can you turn disappointment into creative new opportunity?
  • Do you readily gain the cooperation of others and win their respect and confidence?
  • Can you exert discipline without making a power play? True leadership is an internal quality of the spirit and needs no show of external force.
  • Are you a peacemaker? A leader must be able to reconcile with opponents and make peace where arguments have created hostility.
  • Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?
  • Can you induce people to do happily some legitimate thing that they would not normally wish to do?
  • Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without taking offense? Leaders always face opposition.
  • Can you make and keep friends? Your circle of loyal friends is an index of your leadership potential.
  • Do you depend on the praise of others to keep you going? Can you hold steady in the face of disapproval and even temporary loss of confidence?
  • Are you at ease in the presence of strangers? Do you get nervous in the presence of you superior?
  • Are the people who report to you generally at ease? A leader should be sympathetic and friendly.
  • Are you interested in people? All types? All races? No prejudice?
  • Are you tactful? Can you anticipate how  your words will affect a person?
  • Is your will strong and steady? Leaders cannot vacillate or cannot drift with the wind.
  • Can you forgive? Or do you nurse resentments and  harbor ill-feelings toward those who have injured you?
  • Are you reasonably optimistic? Pessimism and leadership do not mix.
  • Do you feel a master passion such as that of Paul, who said, “This one thing I do!” Such a singleness of motive will focus your energies and power on the desired objective. Leaders need a strong focus.
  • Do you welcome responsibility?

How you handle relationships tells a lot about our potential for leadership. R. E. Thompson suggestes these tests:

  • Do other people’s failures annoy or challenge you?
  • Do you “use” people, or cultivate people?
  • Do you direct people, or develop people?
  • Do you criticize, or encourage?
  • Do you shun or seek out the person with a special need of problem?

These test mean little unless we act to correct our deficits and fill in the gaps of our training. Perhaps the final test of leadership potential is whether you “sit” on the results of such an analysis or do something about it. Why not take some of the points of weakness and failure you are aware of and, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of discipline, concentrate on strengthening those areas of weakness and correcting faults.

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  • Tim,

    I like this list of leadership qualities. I fail the test in nearly every category, but I do see that those are the qualities that I am striving to grow in, and there has been progress.

  • Well Brad, I think you exceed me in things on that list so I guess neither of us is really much of a leader! But don’t forget, that list is natural leadership abilities. Spiritual leadership abilities are what really counts and you have those in spades!

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