How to Lead Like Jesus
How to Lead Like Jesus
Few people have shaped the day-to-day management of people and companies more than Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, which has sold more than 13 million copies. The book was so successful that he had trouble taking credit for its success. He began to think about God. He started to read the Bible. He went straight to the Gospels. He wanted to know what Jesus did.
He became fascinated with how Jesus transformed twelve ordinary, and unlikely, people into the first generation of leaders of a movement that continues to affect the course of world history 2,000 years later. He became aware that everything he had ever taught or written about effective leadership, Jesus had done to perfection way beyond Ken’s ability to portray or describe.
Jesus is more than just a spiritual leader. He gives a practical and effective leadership model for all organisations, for all people, for all situations. You may not think of yourself as a leader, but leadership is about influence. You do have influence, therefore, in a sense, all of us are leaders.
Jesus is the greatest leader of all time. In the passages for today, we see some of the characteristics of Jesus’ leadership together with those of two other great influencers in the Bible – David and Job.
A leader’s worshipPsalm 18:1-6
David was one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel. He also wrote some of the most beautiful songs of worship ever written. Thousands of years later, his Psalms continue to be used in worship by God’s people.
In this psalm, we see that David’s worship and prayer was the bedrock on which his leadership was founded. In the midst of difficulties and opposition he says, ‘I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help’ (v.6). The result was a great reversal in circumstances followed by success, which led David to express his thanksgiving in song.
Whether in difficulty or success, follow David’s example by seeking to build your life on the foundation of prayer and worship.
The starting point of worship is love for God: ‘I love you fervently and devotedly, O Lord, my Strength’ (v.1, AMP). David goes on to express his love, praise and thanksgiving to God. He faced enemies (v.3b), death and destruction (vv.4–5) and distress (v.6a). When he looks back he can see how God heard his cry and saved him from his enemies (vv.3–6).
For the last few years, I have written down a list of cries ‘for help’ (v.6a) in the margins of my Bible in One Year. It is amazing to see the ways in which God has heard my cry. So many of the prayers (although not all quite yet) have been answered. Keeping a record helps me not to forget to thank God.
O Lord, my strength, thank you so much for the many times when I have called to you for help and you have heard my voice. With all the challenges ahead, again I cry to you for help…
A leader’s characteristicsMatthew 21:1-17
What does it mean, in practice, to ‘lead like Jesus’?
1. Lead from who you are more than your position
Who you are is far more important than what you do or what you have, in terms of possessions or position. Jesus’ authority did not come from having a high position in some hierarchy. It came from who he was as a person. He had a natural authority. He had total confidence that all he needed to say was, ‘the Lord needs them’ (v.3). No threats or promises were required.
2. Be gentle and unassuming
‘Your king comes to you, gentle…’ (v.5). This is not a characteristic of leadership that the world expects. Yet it was right at the heart of Jesus’ leadership. The Greek word for ‘gentle’ means considerate, unassuming. It is the opposite of aggressive or self-seeking.
3. Avoid arrogance and ostentation
Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. What a contrast to so many other leaders in history, secular and religious, who have travelled with pomp and ceremony and ostentatious entourages. Jesus’ mode of transport was a sign of great humility. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance, which can so easily creep into human leadership.
4. Have the courage to confront
People sometimes think that gentleness and humility mean giving way in every situation, but Jesus was not afraid of confrontation. He ‘entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers’ (v.12). One of the hardest aspects of leadership is to know the right moment for confrontation.
Failure to confront is in itself a decision with consequences. Conflict and confrontation are never easy but, wisely applied, they are a necessary part of good and courageous leadership.
5. Seek spiritual, not worldly power
The power of Jesus was so different from many of the leaders in the world. ‘The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them’ (v.14). Spiritual power is far more important than earthly power. It cannot be manufactured. It can only come from the kind of relationship Jesus had with God.
6. Make prayer your number one priority
In Jesus’ confrontation with the money-changers we see how passionate he was about prayer (v.13). And throughout the Gospels, we read of Jesus withdrawing (v.17) to be on his own with God. This was the source of his strength. Like with David, prayer was at the heart of Jesus’ leadership.
Lord, help me to lead like Jesus with authority, gentleness, humility, courage and power. Like Jesus, may my strength come from my personal relationship with you.
A leader’s perspectiveJob 19:1-21:34
Job’s friends continue talking ‘nonsense’ and ‘a tissue of lies’ (21:34, MSG). They attempt to comfort Job with ‘empty and futile words’ (v.34, AMP).
On the other hand, we see Job’s real struggle with his own suffering. As opposed to the simplistic analysis of his friends, he sees that the world is very complex. In this life there are many injustices. He cries out, ‘Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?… They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace’ (vv.7,13).
Don’t be surprised that sometimes there are those who completely reject God. They say to him: ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?’ (vv.14–15). Yet they appear to live lives of prosperity and peace.
The Bible never says that ‘the wicked’ will receive justice in this life. Sometimes they do, but at other times they seem to get away with it. Don’t be surprised if you see ‘the wicked’ spending their years in prosperity. Don’t be surprised if you see ‘the innocent’ suffering. God seems to allow both in this life. (This is not to say that we should ever be complacent about injustice or the suffering of the innocent, but rather do all in our power to combat both.)
However, this life is not the end. God has all eternity to put things right. Job glimpses – in a way almost unique in the Old Testament – our future hope:
‘I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God’ (19:25–26).
Job’s insight foreshadows the New Testament hope of resurrection and eternal life. A godly leader has an eternal perspective, which gives a totally different dimension to Christian leadership.
Imagine someone important coming to visit your home. You would probably do a number of things to get ready. You would get yourself ready. You would ensure others in the house were ready, and you would ensure that the house itself was ready, looking clean and tidy.
A Christian leader has an eternal perspective and hope that, ‘In the end [my redeemer] will stand upon the earth’ (v.25). Focus on getting yourself ready, getting others ready (evangelisation, discipleship and pastoral care) and getting the house ready (the revitalisation of the church and the transformation of society). These concerns are not just confined to church leaders. Christian leaders in all spheres of work and society should have these three underlying dimensions embedded in their thoughts, their decisions and their actions.
Furthermore, this perspective should transform your attitude towards your plans and goals. When situations do not work out as hoped, due to the injustice of individuals or organisations or systems, you can still trust in the fact that one day, total justice will prevail.
Lord, thank you that one day I will ‘see God myself, with my very own eyes’ (v.27, MSG). Help me to live each day with this eternal perspective. Help me to become like Jesus and to lead like Jesus.
The verse Job 19:25 says, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’ It appears in Handel’s Messiah. This piece of music was played at my father’s funeral. It is so beautiful and deeply comforting.
Handel set these powerful words to the most amazing music. Since 1742, when it was first performed, it has been bringing comfort and faith to millions of people.
Verse of the Day
‘I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth’ (Job 19:25).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.