I have been reading J. Oswald Sanders’ classic work, Spiritual Leadership, on leading spiritually and have been challenged–both as a leader and in my personal devotion to Christ (as if the two were mutually exclusive!). A leader is merely someone who has been somewhere and calls people to that place. Yet, a leader is also one who stands in front and points forward–inviting people to that greater vision. So the qualities I walk through from Sanders’ book are qualities every disciple of Christ should exhibit in some measure at some point in their walk with Christ. There is, however, a distinct call for leaders to exude these qualities in their personal and public life.

The next few posts will merely summarize Sanders’ ruminations on several qualities he sees in Scripture that are necessary for effective leaders. You can find these qualities in chapters 8 and 9.


“Without this essential quality, all other gifts remain as dwarfs: they cannot grow. . . .Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self” (p.52).

This quality lies at the foundation of cultivating all the subsequent qualities. For example, if you lack wisdom, you must have the discipline (and humility) to ask (James 1.5). If any of us lacks the ability to make decisions, we must be disciplined to know our principles and act accordingly.

If you are not able to follow your own lead, how can you expect others to follow you. If you don’t listen to yourself in the morning to get out of bed or not to eat that extra donut, there might be some fundamental lack in your abilities to persuade. “Many who aspire to leadership fail because they have never learned to follow” (p. 52). Fundamentally, they have never learned to follow the better version of themselves.

One aspect of discipline I found insightful (and out of left field, honestly), is the discipline of receiving from others. He writes, “To neglect receiving kindness and help is to isolate oneself, to rob others of opportunity, and to deprive oneself of sustenance” (p. 55). It requires restraint to say “Yes” to someone’s offer of help. For that “yes” hedges us in so that we must receive. Therein we embrace our finitude and weakness. This will inevitably help us to restrain ourselves when called to delegate and admit we can’t do it alone.