Principles of leadership

By Joshua Wilson

In Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership, the author points to many things that make an ideal spiritual leader. Among the qualities he lists are: responsibility, listening (open-mindedness), dispensability, and most importantly, being Spirit-filled.

Spirit filled

Sanders points to the fact that you cannot be a spiritual leader unless you are filled with the Holy Spirit. To be Spirit-filled means that you are totally given to God, that you obey God in everything, that God lives in you, and that you have a very close relationship with Him. When men were needed to serve tables for the widows in Jerusalem, one requirement was that they be Spirit-filled. In Acts 6:5 it says, “and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Steven’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is what made him so effective and gave him the privilege of being the first martyr for Christ.


To be responsible means that you take responsibility for past actions and learn from them. A leader must be responsible or no one will follow him. He must not be a blame shifter. An example of taking responsibility is in Lew Wallace’s classic novel, Ben-Hur. When his sister pushes a brick from the roof by accident, Ben-Hur takes responsibility for the damage and says that he did it. Because of this his sister is saved from death and admires him all the more. Ben-Hur could have blamed his sister and escaped the dire consequences, but as the man of his house he did the right thing by taking responsibility for his family.


A leader must be open-minded and be willing to change his plan of action. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” You never know when God may change your plans! However, a leader should not be too open-minded, but he should pray and ask the elder’s or teacher’s opinion before making a final decision. Again it says in Proverbs 20:18, “Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance.”


The author says that a leader must not make himself indispensable, but that he should train up a young man to take his place, as was the case with Moses and Joshua. Some people could argue that this is not necessary and that God will raise up another, as was the case with Saul and David. They say that waiting on God would show our trust in Him as an all-powerful God. But the transition from Saul to David was messy. I believe that if a man does not train up his successor then God will, but it is less of a mess if men are trained by their leader.

There are several pit falls of leaders which can direct leaders away from God.


If one finds himself promoted to a high rank he will often become prideful, and as the Bible says, “Pride comes before a fall.” Pride often leads to egotism and jealousy, as was Ahab’s case. When he saw Naboth’s vineyard he became jealous, and then when Naboth would not sell his vineyard to him Ahab became angry and killed Naboth. God would not tolerate a leader that sinned like this and therefore He judged Ahab for his sin. If Ahab had been content and had been humble enough to do what God wanted him to do instead of following after his own selfish desires, he could have been a great leader.


When a person is a very good leader, the public usually takes a liking to him. When you become popular you will want to keep that popularity, then if God tells you to do something that is unpopular you do not want to do it and thus you become a leader that goes along with the crowd. But that is not being a leader. If you obey God instead of the crowd then this is true Spiritual Leadership.

Jesus is the perfect example of all the good qualities of spiritual leadership. Jesus took responsibility on the cross. He made Himself dispensable by raising up disciples to tell the world His message. He was naturally spirit-filled as the son of God, and we also see Him as spirit-filled when He was baptized and on the mount of transfiguration. He did not give in to pride or follow the crowd. And several times when He was about to do something He would spend all night praying.

1 Peter 2:21 says that “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you , leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”

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