Qualities Essential to Leadership (Part I)

We return to Sanders' Spiritual Leadership.  To view the earlier posts in this series you can click here. Getting back into Sanders has been spiritually refreshing and challenging.  Chapter 7, "Qualities Essential to Leadership Part I," is a very challenging chapter.  The chapter is a humbling tour de force on the leader's character.  He addresses in succession: discipline, vision, wisdom, decision, courage, and humility.   This chapter is one of the longest in the book.  One reads here sentences that others have spawned into books and seminars, testifying to the seminal influence of this work.  I think the best thing to do with this chapter is to bring forward a salient quotation from each section. Today we will draw from the sections on Discipline and Vision.


Many who take courses in leadership in the hope of attaining it fail because they have never learned to follow.  They are like the boys who were playing war in the street. When a passerby inquired why they were all so quiet and were doing nothing, one lad replied, "We are all generals. We can't get anyone to do the fighting."

I've often said that true leaders make the best followers as well. They know that someone needs to lead, and they know how to discern the difference between selfish ambition and strong godly leadership.


Vision includes optimism and hope.  No pessimist ever made a great leader.  The pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty.  The pessimist, always seeing the difficulties before possibilities, tends to hold back the man of vision who desires to push ahead.  The cautious man has his part to play in helping his optimistic leader to be realistic as well.  But he must watch lest his native and now ingrained caution clips the wings of the man God intends to soar.  The cautious man draws valuable lessons from history and tradition, but he is in danger of being chained to the past. The man who sees the difficulties so clearly that he does not discern the possibilities will be unable to impart inspiration to his followers.

If you are an optimistic visionary, listen to the cautions brought forward.  Don't let them dampen dreams stirred by Scripture and prayer.   Instead, let these cautions fill out your vision with plans of action that take account of all the obstacles.  Fools truly do rush in where angels fear to tread.  Also, remember that you are dealing with people who may have accumulated their fears and hesitations through wounds.  Listen for the wounds (have vision to see through objections to the heart issues that they reveal), and seek to apply healing.

If you are cautious, don't unduly stamp out the dreams of those who are more optimistic.  Let them challenge you to see that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, and that God can do more than we can ask or imagine.  Indeed, God is most glorified when the mission has been so vast that He has had to be put in the center to accomplish it.   If your caution stems from unhealed wounds (you've been burned), then revisit those places with the gospel and open up to the leader in your midst.  Leaders need to know where their followers have been burned so that they can apply gospel salve to painful places.

I'll return to Sanders list tomorrow.  Once again I am drawn to the throne of grace to seek help in my leadership time of need.  I am also more in awe of Jesus' leadership.  Praise God for Jesus Christ, the pioneer of our salvation.