Tuesday, February 07, 2012

ASSET Leadership

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 7 Feb 2012

Leaders are assets to any organization. Good leaders are great assets. Poor leaders will become liabilities in the long run. Leadership is a challenge anywhere we go. In many cases, leaders are hard to find. Good leaders are harder, even impossible to find. Whether it is a for-profit multi-national corporation, or a small time business, an international non-profit, or an independent charity house, leaders are essential not just to keep the organization running, it is critical to keep it running in the right direction.

This week, I am mindful of leadership matters. In preparing to preach a series of sermons on leadership matters, today I want to introduce a ASSET acronym to describe the kind of Christian leader that every organization needs. The first three, Authoritative, Spiritual, and Sacrificial deal with the requirements of spiritual leadership, and is attributed to J Oswald Sanders, of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. The next two, Encouraging and Toughness deal with the requirements to sustain the leadership endeavour.

"If the world is to hear the church's voice today, leaders are needed who are authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial. Authoritative, because people desire leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there. Spiritual, because without a strong relationship in God, even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead people to God. Sacrificial, because this follows the model of Jesus, who gave himself for the whole world and who calls us to follow in His steps." (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994, 18)

Lately, the word 'authoritative' has been given a rather bad name. In countries like Canada, where politicians are voted in and out all the time, leaders are not normally given the respect. Leaders are expected to earn the respect. Many countries in post-Christendom Europe, are still recovering from devastating religious wars that gives religion a bad rap. Authority is frowned upon. The Church's authority are increasingly being questioned. Democratic mindsets insist that authority must remain with the people. Moreover, with some African and Asian regimes that rule their nations with iron-clad harshness, complete with draconian punishment, leadership tends to be feared rather than desired.

According to Sanders, authoritative means direction setting and the planning to get there. Good leaders are not simply interested in maintaining or running mundane day to day matters. They need to delegate and stay focused on things long-term. They remain in touch with daily tasks mainly to ensure that the work done is on track with the mission and the vision.


What makes spiritual leadership unique from others is because leadership is about leading for God. Secular organizations mainly focus on gains for self or for people inside and outside the organization. It is about people. This is not true of Christian organizations, Churches, or non-profits with an evangelical theme. Spiritual leadership is about leading from a strong relationship with God. The requirement for spiritual leadership is to be blameless.
"An elder must be blameless. . . " (Titus 1:6a)
Sanders gives a helpful comparison of natural vs spiritual leadership.

Natural Leadership Spiritual Leadership
Self-Confident Confident in God
Knows Men Also knows God
Makes own decisions Seek God's will
Ambitious Humble
Creates methods Follow God's example
Enjoys command Delights in obedience to God
Seeks personal reward Loves God and others
Independent Depends on God
[Table from Oswald Sanders's Spiritual Leadership, p29]

Sanders makes a third requirement for spiritual leadership: Sacrificial. The key is to be like Jesus. First off, I believe we all need to imitate Christ as best as we can. Yet, the thing is, we are not Jesus. Secondly, I am wary of treating Christian leadership and service as 'sacrifice' because it is more accurately a privilege. I understand what Sanders means when he talks about sacrificial. He essentially means putting down one's elf-interests for the sake of Christ. The world has changed since the 60s-70s era, the time when Spiritual Leadership was first published. Modern readers tend to interpret 'sacrifice' differently than during Sanders's time. Some has unwittingly used sacrifice as an excuse to boast unconsciously of themselves. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:3?
"If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
Be sacrificial yes. Make sure humility and love are companions to that sacrifice.


One of the biggest obstacles to effective and long-term spiritual leadership is discouragement. It is not whether it will come. It is a question of when. Discouragement hits at the core of the leaders motivation. When the results do not come, when the people fails to participate in the programs and initiatives, when the sheep leaves the flock, leaders can become discouraged. This is why I add in the word 'encouraging.' It is a verb that is meant to be bi-directional.

Leaders need to disciple other leaders by encouraging them in their faith walk and Christian witness. Through prayer, through regular contact, through building rapport, good leaders will take time to prioritize encouraging their fellow leaders and subordinates. I like this Jewish proverb that is a great encouragement.

"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders."
Likewise, leaders need encouragement too. The organization needs followers who are able to encourage leaders in kind. Have a prayer fellowship where the whole Church regularly prays for their leaders. Remember the words from Paul?

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Tim 2:1-2)


Finally, leaders cannot be sissies. Leaders need to have a toughness in them. They are not made of sugar balls that dissolve under the first drops of fine rain. They are to be of steely character, not easily swayed or stopped by discouragement. They can feel down for a while. They can take a retreat of an appropriate length. If the break is not forthcoming, they will plan for it. They will tough it out because they are fixated on the Higher Calling, the Greater Purpose. As long as they are able to fix their eyes on Jesus, they will know that it is not their call to give up. It is their willingness to give in to God's timing.

Toughness requires a mental readiness to turn threats into opportunities. When obstacles and criticisms come like bricks thrown at us, catch the bricks and build something with them! Someone once gives this wise advice:

"A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn."

May we all pray that we have ASSET leaders in our midst. Otherwise, pray to God and ask Him for at least one of each quality. A leader with authoritative vision. A leader with spiritual discernment. A leader with sacrificial and humble spirit. A leader who is encouraging. A leader who can tough it out. ASSET persons are assets that the Church, and any Christian organization needs.

We need ASSET leaders.


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