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Oswald Sanders on Leadership

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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Leadership is influence. At home, church, and work Christian leaders influence for godliness or ungodliness; they build up or tear down, help or hinder Christ’s work

In Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders, former director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship, provides standards to  measure the quality of our leadership.

  • Have you ever broken yourself of a bad habit? To lead others, one must be master of oneself.
  • 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 thoughts 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.
  • Are you entrusted with the handling of 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 considering it a personal affront and reacting accordingly? Leaders must expect opposition and should not be offended by it.
  • Do you find it easy to make and keep friends? Your circle of loyal friends is an index of the quality and extent of your leadership. Are you unduly dependent on the praise or approval of others? Can you hold a steady course in the face of disapproval and even temporary loss of confidence?
  • Are you at ease in the presence of your superiors or strangers?
  • Do your subordinates appear at ease in your presence? A leader should give an impression of sympathetic understanding and friendliness that will put others at ease.
  • Are you really interested in people? In people of all types and all races? Or do you entertain respect of persons? Is there hidden racial prejudice? An antisocial person is unlikely to make a good leader.
  • Do you possess tact? Can you anticipate the likely effect of a statement before you make it?
  • Do you possess a strong and steady will? A leader will not long retain his position if he is vacillating.
  • Do you nurse resentments, or do you readily forgive injures done t o you?
  • Are you reasonably optimistic? Pessimism is no asset to a leader.
  • Are you in the grip of a master passion such as Paul, who said, “This one thing I do?” Such a singleness of motive will focus all one’s energies and powers on the desired objective.
  • Do you welcome responsibility?

May our leadership influence for gospel truth and holiness.


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