A couple of years ago, Lord Harris of Peckham, one of the largest donors of the UK Conservative Party said some unkind things about the then Prime Minister, Theresa May. He said, Mrs May was a “hopeless” leader of a “weak” government. He went on to remind her that she was “no Margaret Thatcher”. Mrs May certainly did not agree with him because history tells us she went on to run the election campaign on the slogan of “strong and stable leadership”.
I mention that that story not to imply Lord Peckham was right. Although some would argue he was vindicated in the end because Mrs May did go on lose her majority after a poor campaign. My immediate point is simply that we all have an interest and opinion about leadership regardless of our station in life because it affects all of us! So it is good for us to be aware of the criteria for effective leadership. All of us face situations where we choose leaders whether nationally or in our communities. And of course many of us serve as leaders in our churches, places of work, clubs, etc. So it is good for us to know the criteria for effective leadership.
I am currently reading through J Oswald Sanders’s Spiritual Leadership. I will give a full summary of the book, along with my reflections in due course. But I could not resist to share what I read earlier today in Chapter 4. Sanders helpfully urges us to deliberately review our lives to see whether we have the qualities that are generally expected in those who have leadership potential. Here are the key questions he poses for us to consider:
- Do you break off bad habits? Are you a master over yourself?
- Do you keep control of yourself when things go wrong?
- Do you think independently? Do you think and make decisions for yourself?
- Can you handle criticism objectively and remain unmoved under it? Do you turn criticism into something beneficial for you?
- Can you use disappointments creatively?
- Do you readily secure 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?
- Are you able to keep the peace, as well as make peace where it has been shattered? Are you a peacemaker?
- Are you entrusted with the handling of difficult and delicate situations?
- Can you convince people to willingly do 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?
- Do you find it easy to make and keep friends?
- Are you overly 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 aides appear at ease in your presence? Do people find you sympathetic and friendly to the extent they feel at ease with you?
- Are you really interested in people? In people of all types and all races?
- 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?
- Do you nurse resentments or do you readily forgive injuries done to you?
- Are you reasonably optimistic?
- Are you in the grip of a master passion? Do you have a singleness of motive that focuses all your energies and powers on the desired objective?
- Do you welcome responsibility?
- Do other people’s failures annoy you or challenge you?
- Do you use people or cultivate people?
- Do you direct people or develop people?
- Do you criticise or encourage others?
- Do you shun the problem person or seek them out?
I mentioned at the start that we should ask these questions to see what is expected of those in public leadership. The truth of course is that whether we like it or not all of us occupy leadership positions in life. We are grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties, friends and mentors. In some sense all of us, except babies, are leaders to someone! Therefore, all of us have the interested to ensure we are growing in exhibiting those qualities Sanders talks about.