The Cowardly Leader Checklist

In his classic book Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Sanders lists courage along with humility, sincerity, and integrity as essential qualities for leaders. He writes, “Leadership always faces natural human inertia and opposition. But courage follows through with a task until it is done.”

The antithesis of courageous leadership, of course, is cowardly leadership, where leaders lack the moral integrity and conviction to do what is right for the right reasons. Here are five common expressions of found on a cowardly leader checklist:

Conviction is missing.

Cowardly leaders are open-handed and non-convictional about the most important things. Instead of possessing a conviction beneath the surface that guides their decisions and provides motivation, they are tossed about by the waves of opinion. 

Clarity is absent.

Cowardly leaders struggle to give clear direction because clear direction means there is a course of action. And a singular course of action means there could be failure, and there could be upset people, and there could be a lot of things that go wrong. So cowardly leaders find it safer to be unclear.

Confrontation is bundled.

Instead of confronting as issues arise, cowardly leaders bundle confrontation and store it up for a later delivery. Sometimes the delivery never occurs, but if it does, the person being confronted is typically caught off-guard. He or she has never been given an opportunity to correct and has missed opportunities to develop because confrontation was bundled. Instead of refusing to let the sun go down on anger, cowardly leaders keep long records of wrongs.

Credibility is borrowed.

Cowardly leaders feel the need to over-quote their supervisors when making a case. Instead of standing on the strength of their logic, the wisdom of the direction, or their own credibility, they merely borrow someone else’s—usually the overall leader of the organization. Typically this sounds like: “_________ says we should do this.” “Talk to _________. I am just the messenger.”

The mysterious “they” is over-utilized.

Cowardly leaders utilize the mysterious and nebulous “they”—the nameless group of people who say what the leader wants to say but lacks the courage to actually say it. So the cowardly leader merely quotes “they.” 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

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John Mulholland (@xjm716) — 06/10/15 1:20 pm

Solid article. I was once handed a list of 6 things I had done wrong over the previous 45 days. While some of them had indeed been things that had been discussed (usually in a 30-second conversation- nothing to indicate that they were real "problems") the vast majority of them were trumped up nonsense. When I asked this person why he never walked down to my office, less than 20 feet away form his, to discuss them, he told that he was unable to manage me. Pathetic. He then handed it to me to sign. None of the elders had signed it, and when I asked about that, he had one of them who was present in the building sign it. Interestingly, he never even signed his own name in the space provided. I asked for a copy signed by ALL of the elders multiple times afterward, and never received it. I later from one of them that he had not sought approval prior to giving it to me, despite typing their names on the document as though he had.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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