“HEY, COACHY!” (Leadership From The Inside-Out)

In western cultures, gifts, skills, education, appearance, wealth, heritage and the like are standout characteristics for selecting, designing and preparing a person to fulfill some leadership or employment assignment. Leadership, from the Kingdom of God, perspective is just the opposite—God chooses and prepares from the inside-out.

From a very young age, I wanted to be a teacher and an athletic coach. I just knew that this was God’s call on my life. Through people, circumstances and multiple other avenues, God watered and nurtured that leadership assignment in such a way that, for me, external, outside successful qualities became secondary to impacting lives. I learned that by tapping into the spirit of people and reaching their core needs and qualities enabled them to become the best people and the best athletes they could be. As I now look in the rearview mirror of that ongoing call along with a 42-year coaching career, I experienced that leading from the inside-out produced the greatest results. I saw the average become good and the good become exceptional. Today, I am proud to say that my students and athletes are contributors to their families, employers and communities in powerful and productive ways. And, as a by-product of that leadership style, when I encounter them now, I hear them call enthusiastically and respectfully, “Hey, Coachy.” After over 50 years, they remember the successes we experienced together and how that inside-out process made them the successful people that they have become.

In 1962, my college athletic career began. My college coach led our team by cultivating skills and building on existing abilities. There was no relational depth or attempt to tap into our core values or qualities. If we ran the time, we got the call. As an athlete, from that style of leadership, I became better as I matured physically, but I could have produced so much more if I had been led to cultivate those inner core qualities that produce greatness. I was wise enough to recognize this subpar form of leadership and decided to do it God’s way—tap into a man’s spirit and take him to levels he never dreamed possible. I started to discretely relate and discern into my students’ and athletes’ lives by seeking answers to things such as: What is your goal? What is your need? What makes you, you? Are you willing to pay the price to get there? When do you want it? How do you see yourself getting there? When answered, these very personal and discrete questions started the journey. I built trust and I was steadfast in their world—each one individually and then corporately. I became an inside-out leader; they became the best they could be.

Without exception, God’s pattern always first examines the inside core qualities (i.e. conditions of the heart) possessed by the person, and then develops and activates the person for His desired purposes. In other words, God works from the inside-out to build a leader, and the effective leader uses that same inside-out pattern in developing others who work with him/her so that together they are enabled to fulfill God’s intended purpose.

When God sent Samuel to anoint David as the next King of Israel, look what God said to Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him (referring to David’s siblings); for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) At that time, David was just a young teenager delegated to caring for his father’s sheep off in some remote pasture. Who would have thought from the outside that this boy would rule over every enemy and reform an entire nation? It was inside-out leadership on display.

In God’s Kingdom pattern, if you want to be a true Kingdom leader, you must work the inside-out style of leadership. With all my years of leadership, believe me, it works. If you desire to be a 21st century echelon leader, be encouraged as you meditate upon these passages. They are similar in several ways, but their promise is incredible. It is the legacy of and the promise to the inside-out leader:

  • Psalm 15:1-5 O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
  • Psalm 24:3-5 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
  • Isaiah 42:16 [God speaking] “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.”

Join me in whatever your classroom happens to be. Join me on your field of competition. Become a 21st century change-agent leader and do it God’s way. Be a leader from the inside-out.

Pastor Jim Sanderbeck
, Treasurer of CCCWP