Leadership Litmus Lesson

By Will Cunningham

Do you remember the movie “The Dirty Dozen”? It was based on the true story of a specialized group of Paratroopers called “The Filthy 13” which centered around a man by the name of Jake McNiece who was, along with others in his unit, getting in trouble for something. They were called the Filthy 13 because they never cleaned their uniforms and only washed themselves once a week. They were all chosen to go behind enemy lines and take out targets. They were not your normal group of military guys. They got into their jump plan, put on war paint and wore mohawks before every mission. These combat leaders spent much of their time behind enemy lines achieving highly dangerous missions that other conventional forces could not. Although they were not conventional in their thinking, they did get the job done.

Jesus didn’t choose well educated men. He chose men with little education, little popularity, men whose skill was not widely known or not specialized. Instead of looking at the outward abilities, he looked at the heart and desired to develop them… ie, disciple them. 

No, Jesus chose His leaders from the ranks of workers and fishermen. Not the upper class. Not professionals. 

In my last article, we talked about “Calling: Care or Curse” focusing on the importance of living out your calling and how it should be viewed. Yet, in a calling, one has to cultivate leadership skills that are not only meaningful but effective. 

Can You Become a Leader? 

The Litmus Lesson 

In Numbers 13:2 God states to Moses: “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan… From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders… We later learn of their poor report in verse 26. The majority of these leaders did not give a good report and suggested no further operations.

Later, in Numbers 14:6-11, we learn of Joshua and Caleb coming to share their report. They had a different story, a different view… Why? Because, as leaders, they were focused on the heart of God, not what they were unable to accomplish. This is such an important principle to our calling. It is not about what we can accomplish, but about what HE desires to accomplish through us. I’d encourage you to study 2 Cor. 4:7 as it focuses on how we are to be used for the Glory of God, not us. Have you ever thought how Jesus recruited his leaders:

• When Jesus selected his leaders, he did not go to the committee in the corporate office

• He did not solicit the help of a large, well-educated recruiting firms 

• He did not go to the top 10 universities and hold recruiting campaigns 

What does it take to be a true leader in the eyes of God and fulfill a calling? Here is a series of questions that we can ask ourselves when leading or for others who are chosen to lead: 

1. Have you ever broken a bad habit?  To lead others, you must master your appetites. 

2. Do you keep your self-control when things go wrong? The leader who loses control under adversity forfeits respect and influence. A leader must be calm in crisis and resilient (able to bounce back) in disappointment. 

3. Do you think independently? A leader must use the best ideas of others to make decisions. A leader cannot wait for others to make up his or her mind. 

4. Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it? The humble person can learn from petty criticism, even malicious criticism. 

5. Can you turn disappointment into creative new opportunity? More often than not, God works more in failures than great success. Think about the 7 years that King David was on the run from cave to cave, while writing many of the Psalms.

6. Do you readily gain the cooperation of others and win their respect and confidence? If you don’t have a support element around you, then there is a trust issue, a transparency concern or translation in the communication. There may be a solo syndrome going on in you.

7. Can you exert discipline without making a power play? True leadership is an internal quality of the spirit and needs no show of external force. It comes down to character, what is in your heart. The heart of Saul or the heart of David.

8. Are you a peacemaker? A leader must be able to reconcile with opponents and make peace where arguments have created hostility. 

9. Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations? 

10. Can you induce people to happily do some legitimate thing that they would not normally wish to do? This actually begins with you, the called, the leader who should often be found doing something you don’t normally do.

11. Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without taking offense? Leaders always face opposition. 

12. Can you make and keep friends? Your circle of loyal friends is an index of your leadership potential. 

13. Do you depend on the praise of others to keep you going? Can you hold steady in the face of disapproval and even temporary loss of confidence? 

14. Are you at ease in the presence of strangers? Do you get nervous in the presence of your superior? 

15. Are the people who report to you generally at ease? A leader should be sympathetic and friendly while maintaining a sense of focus on the mission. 

16. Are you interested in people? All types? All races? Without prejudice? 

17. Are you tactful? Can you anticipate how your words will affect a person? We need to be thinking about what we say and think ahead at our word’s outcomes.

18. Is your will strong and steady? Leaders cannot vacillate or drift with the wind. 

19. Can you forgive? Or do you nurse resentment and harbor ill feelings toward those who have injured you? After all, this is the point of the mission of Jesus, forgiveness.  

20. Are you reasonably optimistic? Pessimism and leadership do not mix. 

21. Do you welcome responsibility? 

22. How do you handle relationships? Do you treat people like a task, or can you form deep relationship with people, looking at them made in the image of God?

23. Do other people’s failures annoy or challenge you? 

24. Do you “use” people, or “cultivate” people? 

25. Do you “direct” people, or “develop” people? 

26. Do you “criticize,” or “encourage?” 

27. Do you “shun” or “seek” out the person with a special need or problem? 

When we take a hard look at the litmus lesson, we need to realize that we may do well on some points and fail at others. If we desire to attain and lead as the Lord wants us to, we will have to learn to press into Him (Matt. 11:28-30) and shake off negative elements that hold us back.

Inspired by Numbers 13:2 & 14:6-11

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