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Criteria of Leadership Potential (Part I)

Posted: July 16, 2012 by James Harvey

We continue the journey through J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership.  I have been taking one salient quotation from a chapter for each post.  Chapter four, "Criteria of Spiritual Leadership," requires a different approach.  The bulk of this chapter is comprised of 27 questions for self-assessment.  The questions are sobering, helpful and convicting to me as a leader.  Sanders concludes his list of questions with this paragraph:

These desirable qualities were all present in their fullness in the symmetrical character of our Lord, and each Christian should make it his constant prayer that they might more rapidly be incorporated into his own personality.

We live in an era that values authenticity.  The Bible offers authentic portraits of saints and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Scholars have long mentioned that the unflattering portrayals of the disciples pre and post Pentecost is testimony of the inspiration of Scripture: if Scripture were merely a human product then it is unlikely that the leaders of the church would choose to cast themselves in cracked molds.  Being authentic as a Christian leader is good.  It keeps followers mindful that leaders are in need of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit just like everyone else.

Authenticity, however, is never a substitute for growing in Christ.  When authenticity turns into a "take me as a I am" sort of attitude, justified by "at least I'm honest," we have departed from the path of discipleship.  I have sat on theological examining committees before and have often said:  "It's great to be authentic.  You should by all means be your self.  But, your life (and sometimes theological conviction) needs to grow in this particular area in order to be a minister of the gospel."  So, let's be honest.  But, let's be honest so that we can, by God's grace, grow in Christ.

Here are the first nine questions posed by Sanders:

  • Have you ever broken yourself of a bad habit?
  • Do you retain control of yourself when things go wrong?
  • The leader who loses self-control in testing circumstances forfeits respect and loses influence.  He must be calm in crisis and resilient in adversity and disappointment.
  • Do you think independently?  While using to the full the thought of others, the leader cannot afford to let others do his thinking or make his decisions for him.
  • Can you handle criticism objectively and remain unmoved under it?  Do you turn it to good account?  The humble man can derive benefit from petty and even malicious criticism.
  • Can you use disappointments creatively?
  • Do you readily secure the cooperation and win the respect and confidence of others?
  • Do you possess the ability to secure discipline without having to resort to a show of authority?  True leadership is an internal quality of the spirit and requires no external show of force.
  • Have you qualified for the beatitude pronounced on the peacemaker? It is much easier to keep the peace than to make peace where it has been shattered.  An important function in leadership is conciliation--the ability to discover common ground between opposing viewpoints and then induce both parties to accept it.
Eighteen more to go to complete Sanders list.  At this end of his list he writes: "Why not take some of the points of conscious weakness and failure and, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of discipline, concentrate on strengthening them or correcting them?"  Good counsel.  Start praying today for God to transform your character in specific areas.  He is pleased to answer that prayer.