#059: The Single Most Important Qualification for Leadership

Of all the possible qualifications for leadership, and there are many, there is one that is, without a doubt, the single most important qualification for leadership. I learned the hard way, not having this one qualification is an absolute deal breaker when assessing future leaders in your organization.

Leader, Leadership

On several occasions during my career my wife Barbara would meet someone that I work with, and later advise me not to trust that person. On a few occasions, my assessment of the individual aligned with hers; neither of us felt I should trust that person. Sadly, there were a few occasions when I thought I knew the person well enough to make a more informed opinion than my wife. I trusted someone who ended up not being trustworthy.

The difference between Barb and me in our assessment of people is that she has the ability to meet someone, and look deep into their hearts. I, on the other hand, tend to be swayed in my judgment, by external factors—how they look, how they carry themselves, their charisma. I am trying to become more like Barb, looking at someone’s heart as the most important qualification for leadership. It turns out Barb’s intuition for assessing potential leaders is quite Biblical.

The book of 1 Samuel describes Samuel the prophet, and his search for a new king to replace Saul. God tells Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem (16:1) because God has chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be king. Samuel goes to Jesse and tells him to consecrate himself and his sons, and invites them to a sacrifice. When Jesse’s son Eliab shows up Samuel is sure this is who the Lord has selected to be king, but he is rejected. Then Abinadab is brought in and he is rejected as well, as is Shammah, and four more of Jesse’s sons. Seven sons are brought forth and God doesn’t select any of them. Finally, Samuel asks Jesse, “Do you have any more sons?” and Jesse admits he has one more son, the youngest, who is out tending sheep. They send for the youngest son, David, who comes in from tending his flocks and as soon as Samuel sees him the Lord tells him, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one” (16:13).

So what was different about David? Why did God select David to be the future leader of the nation Israel? God tells us exactly what His leadership criterion is, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7). God’s criterion for leadership has nothing to do with the external factors. He does not care how many degrees you have, how beautiful you are, or the size of your house. God cares about your heart. In God’s economy, the single overriding most important qualification for leadership is a heart that is ready, one that is inclined toward Him.

Solomon, David’s son, recognizes the importance of a heart inclined to God when he responds to God, “And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.’” (1 Kings 3:6). Solomon clearly understands God used his father, David, in a mighty way because he was faithful to God.

Unfortunately, we also see Solomon struggled to maintain that faithfulness to God in his own life, For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David…So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not completely follow the LORD, as his father David had done.” (1 Kings 11:4-6).


When considering someone for a position of leadership, whether it is in the corporate setting, as a church leader, or even as the coach for youth soccer, choose wisely. Apply God’s standard for leadership first. Look at the individual’s heart. Are they inclined to God? Are they faithful in their walk? Do their words and deeds measure up? Of all the other potential qualifications in selecting a future leader, give the most weight to selecting men and women whose heart is inclined to God.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you made bad choices in selecting someone for leadership? Have you trusted someone who later turned out to not be trustworthy?

Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

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