Monday, February 02, 2009

J. Oswald Sanders on Leadership

I've recently been re-reading J. Oswald Sanders classic book, Spiritual Leadership. Although it is over forty years old, Spiritual Leadership still offers valuable insight on leadership from a Christian perspective. Sanders strikes a fitting balance between the qualities of leadership that can be learned and those that are God-given. He offers the following questions to ask ourselves in order to assess the natural qualities of leadership we possess:
1. Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead others, you must master your appetites.

2. 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.

3. Do you think independently? A leaders must use the best ideas of others to make decisions. A leader cannot wait for others to make up his or her mind.

4. Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it? The humble person can learn from petty criticism, even malicious criticism?

5. Can you turn disappointment into creative new opportunity?

6. Do you readily gain the cooperation of others and win their respect and confidence?

7. 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.

8. Are you a peacemaker? A leader must be able to reconcile with opponents and make peace where arguments have created hostility.

9. Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?

10. Can you induce people to do happily some legitimate thing that they would not normally with to do?

11. Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without taking offense? Leaders always face opposition.

12. Can you make and keep friends? Your circle of loyal friends is an index of your leadership potential.

13. 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?

14. Are you at ease int he presence of strangers? Do you get nervous in the presence of your superior?

15. Are the people who report to you generally at ease? A leader should be sympathetic and friendly.

16. Are you interested in people? All types? All races? No prejudice?

17. Are you tactful? Can you anticipate how your words will affect a person?

18. Is your will strong and steady? Leaders cannot vacillate or cannot drift with the wind.

19. Can you forgive? Or do you nurse resentments and harbor ill-feelings toward those who have injured you?

20. Are you reasonably optimistic? Pessimism and leadership do not mix.

21. 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 powers on the desired objective. Leaders need a strong focus.

22. Do you welcome responsibility?
These are some great reminders of what we can look at within ourselves to see how we may be doing as leaders -- at home, at work, at church or wherever we find ourselves. When I look at this list I'm reminded of some of my "gaps" and where I need to continue to be intentional about developing myself. The age-old question is, "Are leaders born or made?" I think the answer is a little of both. Some people just possess qualities to be an A-level leader - qualities that are difficult to learn.

In a similar way, when it comes to basketball, not everybody can be Michael Jordan. But even Michael Jordan had to develop his God-given ability to become the player he became. Without practice and hard work, he never would have made the NBA, much less perform on the level he did. So even if we don't possess the natural gifts of a Jordan, we might be able to become a decent ball player if we practice and work on our game. Leadership is no different. Not everyone is an Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. But we can develop those qualities we do have into greater assets.


J. Hill said...

That is a great list of leadership qualities. It is quite challenging when I think about it. Where do you find all these wonderful books?

scottmcrocker said...

I actually first read this one in a class I took. I don't know if you get their flyers in the mail, but Christian Book Distributors (CBD),, typically has pretty good prices on books.