What is Spiritual Leadership?
Kevin EastKevin East is the President of the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas. He formerly served Pine Cove Camps as their Executive Director of Ministries. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter @kevinteast.
- 2012 Feb 23
This book, Spiritual Leadership, is my favorite book on leadership. In trying to keep with the age-old axiom that great books shouldn't be read just once, I just went back through it. This time, I asked 3 questions of the book before jumping in. The following is my attempt at answering those 3 questions.
1. What is the difference between spiritual leadership and natural leadership?
- Rationale for Question: We can easily become enamored with charismatic leadership that is based exclusively on the personality, and try to emulate the way such people lead, as opposed to striving to be spiritual leaders.
The world needs leaders who are authoritative, spiritual and sacrificial. This is because people desire leaders who: know where they are going and how to get there, have a strong relationship with God, and model the leadership of Jesus as a servant.
Spiritual leaders are not leaders because they were elected, appointed or created by ministry leadership. They are chosen and placed in their roles by God. Their leadership is marked by service and suffering as they pour out their lives to bring honor to God.
A short list of differences between natural and spiritual leaders is:
Natural – Self-confident, makes own decisions, ambitious, enjoys command, independent
Spiritual – Confident in God, seeks God’s will, humble, delights in obedience to God, and depends on God. (Sanders 29)
2. What are the principles of excellence for every believer?
- Rationale for Question: The subtitle is intriguing to me. I wonder what he means by these, “principles of excellence.”
The entire book is packed full of various qualities of, and words of wisdom for leaders. The wisdom is not exclusive for leaders, but easily transferable to all believers who want to live lives that are effective or excellent.
Though an exhaustive list of character qualities and practical tips are listed throughout the book, the following are the ones that stood out among others:
- Discipline – This is an essential quality. All other gifts remained stunted if this one is lacking. Leaders need to learn to obey the discipline that is imposed from without, as well as take on a more strenuous discipline from within. (Sanders 52)
- Vision – Many eyes look, but few actually see. Vision is filled with optimism and hope. This optimism causes the leader to see opportunity in every difficulty. (Sanders 56)
- Wisdom – Knowledge is gained by reading, but wisdom is received from the Holy Spirit. (Sanders 57)
- Decision – People can be stuck analyzing all the various options. Leaders, however, “weigh evidence and make decisions on sound premises.” (Sanders 58)
- Humor – Humor is a tremendous asset and invaluable lubricant in ministry. (Sanders 68)
3. What is the most important quality of a spiritual leader?
- Rationale for Question: I have read many books on leadership. However, I would rather better learn the biblical picture of leadership as opposed to just what the books on the New York Times bestseller rack might teach me.
Being Spirit-filled is a requirement to be a spiritual leader. Although there are many important qualities to possess in leading, the indwelling Spirit is a non-negotiable. A person can have a brilliant mind, a great education, many connections, yet is still incapable of providing true spiritual leadership.
To be filled with the Spirit means that the leader voluntarily and wholeheartedly surrenders his life and will to the Spirit. The personality, gifts, and talents of the leader are all operating under the leadership of the Spirit. Bottom line: to be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. (Sanders 82)
When someone is in a position of leadership, it isn’t by accident. God places leaders. The refining work that God does in each person takes time. As a Spirit-filled being, the spiritual leader needs to remember the leadership they offer should look much different than what is being offered by many “good” leaders today. As well, leaders should continually evaluate their leadership to see in what areas they could or should improve.
This book has had a tremendous impact in my ministry over the past 15 years. Going through it again, I seem to have found many more “nuggets” to consider as I lead people. The most impactful reminder to me this time through is what it means to be a Spirit-filled believer. As I submit my mind and heart to Him, my main goal as I lead would be to honor His name.
Have you read any great books on leadership? If so, which ones?