Right up front, I have to admit that J. Oswald Sanders had a difficult job with me in that I admittedly have a generally negative opinion of leadership books in general. In various employment and educational situations, I have been required to read a variety of books written by leadership gurus (ranging from Tony Robbins to John Maxwell) and have found the whole `leadership book' idea to be inherently kitschy and shallow; almost the entire genre is composed of creative re-packaging of ideas that either seem complete common sense (i.e. don't yell at employees) or involve making up words and phrases (i.e. "Synergistic Visionization"). Admittedly, I went at 'Spiritual Leadership' with low expectations but was both surprised and dismayed by what I encountered.
On the positive front, I was impressed at how Sanders seemed to focus quite a bit on aspects of leadership that are often missing from other, more popular treatments on the subject. Sanders incorporated biblical concepts of leadership and biblical theology, articulating how leadership involves suffering, recognizing God's sovereignty, has a spiritual component of power and empowerment, involves spiritual qualifications, is built upon the principle of servanthood, etc. Being a book written for a Christian audience on the subject of leadership, it was not surprising to see theology and biblical references included in the process of argumentation but it was refreshingly up front and consistently incorporated throughout the book, not something tagged onto the book to make it marketable to a religiously slanted audience. Far too often, `Christian' books on leadership have a whole lot of `leadership' and very little `Christian'.
More specifically, Sanders seemed to spend a large amount of time focusing on the moral characteristics of leadership. The majority of the book talked about what a leader should be as opposed to what a leader should do. Many books on leadership, including many books written for a Christian audience, do not sufficiently address the foundational character of leaders in a general sense. Sanders laid a strong foundation for an understanding of leadership that was rooted in principle and moral characteristics.
On the weak front, I found Sanders that Sander's argumentation for his various positions was often shoddy and not compelling. I was dismayed at how Sanders seemed to flippantly base some of his arguments on quotations of famous or obscure persons and others on scripture. To me, testimonial arguments carry little weight compared with the solid interpretation and application of scripture. An example of this would be in his eighth and ninth chapters where he lists essential qualities of leadership. Of his sixteen essential qualities, six of the ten are not built on any scripture at all. One can find famous people in history who say things that are both amazingly wise and laughably ignorant, and sound-byte quotations are no replacement for solid, biblical exegesis and argumentation. If one wants to persuade a reader, one must build a case on a solid foundation; for the Christian reader that should be biblical exegesis and application.
Sanders seemed to be somewhat inventive in finding scripture to support his positions as well. An example of this is on page 119 where he uses Mark 5:30 to make the point that the demands of leadership involve "the expenditure of nervous energy and personal power". Now whether or not the principle is true, Mark 5:30 is in no way a commentary on fatigue in leadership. To say that Sanders stretches some of his scripture references is generous indeed. If 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (among many other passages) is true and the scripture is all-sufficient, Sanders should put a little more serious work into his scriptural support.
All in all, the book is good and the principles inside are mostly decent. It reminded me of many essential character issues that I need improvement in, and it reminded me of the many facets of leadership that I often forget. I wouldn't recommend the book as an example of biblical exegesis, but if you're reading 'Leadership' books, you're likely not caring much about that anyway. I would recommend the book for someone who's wanting a little more biblical depth than your average John Maxwell "you go get 'em champ!" tirade, but isn't really bothered about examining an author's exegesis (or lack thereof).