The Most Important Quality in a Leader


Humility is perhaps the single most important quality in a leader. Like the pillar of a bridge, it may lie below the surface, but the integrity of the entire structure stands or falls on that one area.

Oswald Sanders writes, “Humility is the hallmark of the spiritual leader. Christ told his disciples to turn away from the pompous attitudes of the oriental despots, and instead take on the lowly bearing of the servant (Mt. 20:25-27). As in ancient days, so today humility is least admired in political and business circles. But no bother! The spiritual leader will choose the hidden path of sacrificial service and approval of the Lord over the flamboyant self-advertising of the world” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 61).

I would rather have a humble man with mediocre skills and mold him into a servant of God, than to have a naturally-talented man who is full of arrogance. It doesn’t matter how gifted a man is in preaching, or music, or biblical languages, or theological prowess. If he’s cocky and divisive and looking for others to serve him, he’s going to do far more damage than good in the church.

So how do we cultivate humility? I recently had this discussion with some guys at the church, and we brainstormed a number of ways to develop a humble heart that delights the Lord: Love and serve your enemy; Encourage one another; Depend on the Holy Spirit; Admit your spiritual emptiness before God; Pray for God to give you a heart of humility; Practice the spiritual disciplines and fight the flesh; Have a “big view” of the greatness of God.

C.J. Mahaney gives many more practical suggestions in his little book Humility: True Greatness

  • At the beginning of each day: Reflect on the wonder of the cross; Acknowledge your need for God; Express gratitude to God; Practice spiritual disciplines; Seize your commute by memorizing and meditating on Scripture; Cast your cares upon him; Stay charged up with a prayerful attitude.
  • At the end of each day: Avoid cosmic plagiarism (taking credit for your gifts); Accept the gift of sleep; Make your final thought an expression of gratefulness to God for His sacrifice in Christ.
  • Plus some other ideas: Study the attributes of God; Study the doctrines of grace; Study the doctrine of sin; Play golf as much as possible; Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.

God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). May He find much reason to fill our church with His grace.

Question: In what areas of ministry do you feel most susceptible to pride? Click here to leave a comment.

Photo credit: Lee Harkness


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