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Leadership Qualities

"If you are a leader, exert yourself to lead." (Romans 12: 8, NEB)

Several years ago, James Reston, a columnist for the New York Times,
gave an evaluation of the small caliber of men
that he thought occupied the governor's office in various states.

He said, "Maybe the states can go on handling bigger and bigger problems
with smaller and smaller men, but it is a risky business...
most state capitols are over their heads in problems and up to their knees in midgets

James Reston was saying that such an important office was no place for wimps.
It takes strong and dynamic leaders to grow the kind of churches
that wins and keeps converts.
It cannot be done with wimps.

Wherever there is a growing church, you will find people
who realize the importance of leadership and pay the price to give it.

Let us define leadership.

Leadership is simply influence.
It is the ability of one person to influence others.
One can lead others only to the extent that he can influence them to follow his leadership.

Lord Montgomery defined leadership as
"The capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose,
and the character which inspires confidence

Admiral Nimitz of World War II declared,
"Leadership may be defined as that quality in a person
that inspires sufficient confidence in his subordinates,
has to be willing to accept his views and carry out his commands

John R. Mott, a world leader in Christian missions,
gave as his definition, "A leader is one who knows the road,
who can keep ahead, and who pulls others after him

Leaders must view clearly the goal to be reached,
plan innovative strategy and tactics by which it can be attained,
and then convince others to join with them in pursuit of it.

Not every Christian is called or qualified for a position of major leadership,
but all are leaders to the extent that they influence others.
All of us can, if we will, increase our leadership potential.
All Christians are under obligation to be the best they can be for God.

If your leadership potential can be improved,
you have a responsibility to God to improve it.

Paul identified leadership as one of the gifts of the Spirit
and wrote to the church at Rome and to us,
"If you are a leader, exert yourself to lead." (Romans 12: 8, NEB)

The gift of leadership is from God, but it is our responsibility
to polish it, develop it, and improve it through His enabling power.
In order to improve our leadership, we must understand the characteristics
that compose good leadership.

What does it take to be a good leader?

An important quality of a good leader is his vision.

Vision is not seeing the invisible.
Vision is seeing the obvious that other people overlook.
Vision is seeing what ought to be done and how to do it.
Vision is the result of a mental process that involves praying, dreaming, and thinking.

Thinking is the beginning place of leadership.
You might believe that people who think are commonplace. Not so!
Thinking people are always in short supply.

Many people seemed to suffer from what Ashley Montague,
the great Rutgers anthropologist, called "psychosclerosis."
"Psychosclerosis" is like arteriosclerosis.
Arteriosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries.
"Psychosclerosis" is a hardening of the attitude.
When that happens, we cease to dream, to see, to think, and we cease to lead.

It was said of Charles Cowman, founder of the Oriental Missionary Society,
"He was a man of vision.
Throughout his life he seemed to see what the crowd did not see,
and to see wider and fuller than many of his own day.
He was a man of far horizons

Those who have most powerfully and permanently influenced
their generations have always been the "seers"
-- people who have seen more and farther than others.
They have been persons who could think faster, clearer,
and farther ahead than those around them.

If you aren't by nature a creative thinker, don't despair.
You can improve your spiritual vision.

Read books, and read God's Word of those who were and are spiritual.
Associate with people of vision.
Make friends with Christian leaders who are dreamers.
hey will stimulate you to greater heights.
Leave your environment periodically so you can see your field in a different light.
Pray much, and you will find your horizons being lifted, and your vision sharpened.
When you dream -- dream big!

In the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC,
there is an exhibit on city and government planning in which this sign was posted:
"Make no little plans, for they have no power to stir men's minds."
A leader cannot afford to stop dreaming or to stop thinking.

So, be the kind of honest, straightforward, devout, loving person
that people can and will believe, and they will follow you.

Once you have a vision of what needs to be done, you must have the courage to carry it out.
It takes courage because leadership almost always involves risks -- the risk of failure and the risk of opposition.

You will always have critics.
No person and no idea will please every body.
Opposition is sure to come.

Leaders must decide what is right and go forward in spite of fears and opposition.
While every leader faces the fear of criticism from without,
one faces an even greater enemy from within -- the fear of failure.

One of our chief dangers is that we may be mastered by our fears,
take too many precautions in life, and thus never do anything.

The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.
Considerably more failures are the result of an excess of caution
than of bold experimentation with new ideas.
Most of us have never been sufficiently daring.

The difference among men and women is not that some are afraid and others are not.
The difference is that some are not mastered by their fears.
When struggling with fear, we must continue to remind ourselves
that failure is never fatal and success is never final.

As someone has stated, "You cannot steal second base and keep your feet on first."

By its very nature, the position of the leader is difficult and lonely.
The leader must always be ahead of his followers.
The leader may be the friendliest of all people,
but he must be prepared to face loneliness, criticism, and ostracism.
This is the price one must pay for leadership.

Henry J. Kaiser was one of the industrialist giants of America.
An associate had this to say about him:
"Henry is like a happy elephant; he smiles and leans against you.
After a while you know that there is nothing left to do
but to move in the direction he is pushing

Christian leaders need that kind of persistence.

We must keep smiling because we are working with volunteer help and free-will offerings.
We do not lead by executive memo or imperial edict.
We are grass roots, not top brass.
We must keep learning because people are by nature
resistant to new ideas and are even resistant to progress.

Most churches are asleep, and it requires a loud voice and a daring idea to wake them up.
Don't be discouraged if you don't succeed at your initial effort.
The first response of sleeping people and sleeping churches
is to push the snooze button, rollover, and go back to sleep.
Sometimes, they might even growl at you.

Don't give up!
After all, there is no way to awaken a sleeping person without disturbing him.
Don't give up!

Keep on shaking the person gently, and he will eventually wake up.
Churches are the same way.

Calvin Coolidge once said,
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistency.
Talent will not.
Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not.
Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not.
The world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

A sign outside a small church in upstate New York sums it up pretty well:
"Failure is the line of least persistence."

Another quality of a good leader is decisiveness.

You must be able to make a decision.
If you wait until all possible obstacles are overcome, you will never do anything.
So, first weigh, then venture.

A thing can be analyzed and scrutinized to death.
Study the facts, seek the advice of wise friends, pray diligently, and then decide.
A leader cannot afford to ignore the council of cautious persons around him.
They will often save a leader from unnecessary mistakes.

But he must be aware of allowing their excess of caution to curb his initiative,
if he feels his vision is of God.

Nor, must a leader allow cautious persons to restrain him
from taking daring steps of faith to which God is calling both leader and followers.

You are going to make mistakes.
Everybody does!
So expect mistakes and go on.
That's another price of leadership.

After a misunderstanding among some deacons I have pastored,
one of those great servants came to a meeting with these first words:
"I've come to eat crow."

Humility is an important quality in Christian leadership.

If you make a mistake, admit it and apologize for it.
The most important seven words of a Christian leader are:
"I'm sorry; I was wrong; forgive me."

Christian leaders must learn to eat crow.

One pastor expressed it like this:
"I have eaten crow every way it can be prepared:
Fried, stewed, baked, barbecued, and even "extra crispy
He goes on to say, "While I still gag on it, I have never died from it.
In fact, I have discovered that my leadership actually flourishes on it

Persons who must always be right, and can never be wrong,
and must always have their own way are destined to have trouble as Christian leaders.

Don't take yourself too seriously.
Join the human race.

Get rid of the "god complex" that makes you think
you should always be right and never make a mistake.

Keep a sense of humor and a humble spirit.
Learn to laugh, especially at yourself.
You cant take the ministry too seriously, but you can take yourself too seriously.

A good leader has an optimistic, enthusiastic attitude.

A pessimist never makes an inspiring leader.
Hope and optimism are essential qualities for the servants of God
as they battle with the denizens of darkness for human souls.

Some people are beaten before they start.
They always look on the dark side and expect the worst to happen.

Many people are like the boy who came home from school and reported to his father,
"Dad, I think I failed my arithmetic test today."

The father, desiring to teach the boy to be a positive thinker,
challenged the boy, "Son, think positively."

The boy responded,
"All right Dad, I'm positive I failed my arithmetic test today."

That is true of many people today – they are positively negative.

The pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity.
The optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty.
The pessimist always sees difficulties before possibilities,
and tends to hold back the person of vision who desires to push ahead.

The cautious person has a role to play in helping optimistic leaders to be realistic as well.
But you must watch lest your native and ingrained caution
clips the wings of the leader God intends to soar.

People catch our spirit just like they catch our colds – by getting close to us.
So, maintain an infectious optimism and a burning enthusiasm.
Whatever you do, put your whole heart into it.
Show excitement and be energetic and you will find that others will also.

Here they are – qualities of good leadership:
Vision – Integrity – Courage – Persistence –
Decisiveness – Humility – Optimism

Cultivate these qualities in your life and ministry, and you will become an excellent leader.
If you aren't a successful leader yet, don't despair, and don't give up.
Leaders are developed, not born.
To be an excellent leader can be a long and grueling process.

Some potential leaders are "late bloomers."

So, keep dreaming!
Keep growing!
Keep working at it!
And you will become the leader God intends you to be.

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White

Email Dr. White at