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Lead Like JesusLessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Times
By Ken Blanchard Phil Hodges
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWho Will You Follow? How Will You Lead?
The world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. Pick up any daily newspaper, and you will quickly find examples of abandoned values, betrayed trust, exploitation, and manipulation committed by people of power and influence. Corporate leaders exploit privileges of position, bringing ruin to employees and investors. Meanwhile, citizens of underdeveloped countries languish in poverty and hopelessness in a leadership vacuum. Church leaders experience crises of integrity, compromising their churches and breeding skepticism and disillusionment. Families and personal relationships drift away from mutual commitment and head toward battlegrounds of self-absorbed conflict over rights to individual fulfillment.
In one sense, the leadership model that people often experience is summarized by the popular opinion: "It's all about me." In all kinds of organizations and institutions, the rewards of money, recognition, and power increase as you move up the hierarchy. Self-promotion (pride) and self-protection (fear) are the reigning motivations that dominate the leadership landscape. Many leaders act as if the sheep are there only for the benefit of the shepherd. In personal relationships, leadership expectations of mutual respect, loving care, self-sacrifice, and openness are often undermined when pride, fear, and indifference replace intimacy with isolation. That's the bad news.
There is a way to lead that honors God and restores health and effectiveness to organizations and relationships. It is the way Jesus calls us to follow as leaders: to serve rather than be served.
As you begin your journey of leading like Jesus, you have to answer the following three key questions, which we will explore in this chapter:
1. Am I a leader?
2. Am I willing to follow Jesus as my leadership role model?
3. How do I lead like Jesus?
Am I a Leader?
Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people toward accomplishing a goal in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader. Leadership can be as intimate as words of guidance and encouragement to a loved one or as formal as instructions passed through extended lines of communication in organizations. Leadership can be nurturing the character and self-worth in children and promoting greater intimacy and fulfillment in personal relationships, or it can involve distributing diverse resources in an organization to accomplish a specific objective and task.
Each of the following situations describes someone engaged in an act of leadership:
A mother with a child at any time of day
A friend who risks alienation to confront a moral failure
A corporate executive who rejects offers of inside information to gain a competitive edge
A U.S. Navy SEAL commander who orders his troops into harm's way to succeed in their mission
A husband and wife who seek mutual agreement on day-to-day finances
A middle school teacher who excites curiosity in the minds of her students
A rehabilitation nurse who patiently handles the anger of a stroke victim
A missionary doctor who refuses to leave his patients to avoid capture by enemy forces
A local pastor who avoids teaching on controversial issues for fear of rejection
A high school coach who fails to confront rule violations by his star player
An adult who provides advice and guidance on living arrangements to his aging parent
A terminally ill patient who demonstrates grace, confidence, courage, and calm to anxious loved ones
A local government official who takes an unpopular political stand based on principle
A dictator who hoards millions of dollars while his citizens are starving
Two things are evident in this list. First, each of these people is a leader because he or she is affecting or influencing others, either in a positive or negative way. This list reveals that some leadership actions are very specific in nature (a dictator hoarding millions), and others are more general (a mother with a child); some are overt (an official taking an unpopular stand), and some are covert (a pastor avoiding teaching on a controversial issue). The actions of a leader that create influence are not always obvious to those being led. We also influence people who may not choose to follow, such as the executive who refused insider information.
Second, these leaders are involved in making a personal choice about how and to what end they will use their influence. It is the same choice we are all called to make when we exert influence on people: do we seek to serve or to be served? If your driving motivations are self-promotion and self-protection, you will use your influence with others to fulfill these needs. If your actions are driven by service and dedication to a cause or a relationship, then you will model and encourage these values in others.
As you think about the many ways you influence the actions of other people, you can see that you are a leader wherever you go, not just at work. Whether you serve others as parent, spouse, family member, friend, or citizen-or whether you have a leadership title and position like CEO, pastor, coach, teacher, or manager-you are a leader!
As we consider how we can lead like Jesus in our various leadership roles, we need to be aware of the difference between life role leadership and organizational leadership.
The most dramatic difference between life role leadership and organizational leadership involves the permanence of the relationships the leader is trying to influence. Life role leaders function in enduring lifelong relationships as parents, spouses, siblings, friends, and citizens, where duty and obligation cannot be easily relinquished or discarded.
Organizational leaders, on the other hand, operate for a season in an environment of temporary relationships and change. People in positions come and go in organizations for all sorts of reasons. Whom you will be working with or for in a given year can change in an instant! This lack of stability often breeds a degree of reserve and qualified commitment acted out in the arena of competitive office politics.
Most of the leadership that shapes our lives does not come from leaders with titles on an organization chart; it comes from leaders in our daily life role relationships. It is instructive to note that in the early church, a candidate's life role leadership was a prerequisite for assuming organizational leadership. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, we read:
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
One person who exemplified servant leadership in Jesus's life was His mother, Mary. The legacy of obedience, submission, faith, and service that Mary passed on to her son is the subject of a rich heritage of thought that we will not venture to add to at this time. Mary epitomized the essence of a servant heart. In her life role as a mother, she was positioned to have strategic influence on the life and spirit of her child. The relationship between mother and son-between a soul already tested and found willing and one to be nurtured, between spiritual teacher and student-was part of God's plan of preparation for Jesus's season of leadership.
* Pause and Reflect
Take a moment to think about the people who have most influenced your thinking, behavior, and life path. As you recall their names and faces, you will realize that leadership, titles, and positions of organizational authority are only part of the leadership landscape. Now think of all the relationships in which you have the opportunity to influence the thinking and behavior of others, and consider how often in any given situation you face the choice: "Am I seeking to serve or to be served?" The answer to that question will depend on whom we choose to follow.
That leads to our second key question.
Am I Willing to Follow Jesus As My Leadership Role Model?
You might say, "Before I look to Jesus as my leadership role model, I need to understand what leading like Jesus means." The essence, the core concept of leading like Jesus is encapsulated in the "not so with you" mandate that Jesus gave to His disciples regarding how they were to attain and carry out roles of leadership. In Matthew 20, we read,
Jesus called them together and said, "You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (vv. 25-28; emphasis added)
This call by Jesus to servant leadership is clear and unequivocal; His words leave no room for plan B. He placed no restrictions or limitations of time, place, or situation that would allow us to exempt ourselves from His command. For followers of Jesus, servant leadership isn't an option; it's a mandate. Servant leadership is to be a living statement of who we are in Christ, how we treat one another, and how we demonstrate the love of Christ to the whole world. If this sounds like serious business with profound implications-it is!
The exciting part of leading like Jesus is that He never sends us into any situation alone or with a flawed plan or a plan to fail. Jeremiah 29:11-14 tells us,
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord.
As in all things, when Jesus speaks to us about leadership, He speaks about what is right and effective. We can trust His Word as an expression of His unconditional love and sacrifice for our eternal well-being. As followers of Jesus, we can trust Him regardless of our circumstances, and we can freely ask Him to give us wisdom in all things, including our leadership roles. James 1:2-8 reminds us that Jesus wants to be intimately involved in all aspects of our lives:
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God-who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty-and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God's help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn. (PHILLIPS; emphasis added)
A friend of ours once had a counselor who kept reminding him, "Your intelligence has gotten you into this." In other words, in a variety of situations he thought he was smart enough to figure it out on his own. But he wasn't. He was trying to play for the approval of all kinds of audiences, many of whom had conflicting views of what he ought to be doing and how he ought to be living his life. And he ended up pleasing none of them. He had yet to learn that he had but one audience, and that is God. In fact, God is not only the audience of his life, but He is also the director. God will guide and direct us to do exactly the right thing-if only we will let Him.
Is Jesus a Relevant Role Model for Us Today?
A common barrier to embracing Jesus as a leadership role model lies in skepticism about the relevance of His teaching to your specific leadership situations. We are, in many ways, faced with the same questions that Peter faced when Jesus asked him to do some highly unusual and unorthodox things regarding his fishing business.
Here was the situation as described in Luke 5:1-11:
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water's edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon [Peter], its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets, and you will catch many fish." "Master," Simon replied, "we worked hard all last night and didn't catch a thing! But if you say so, we'll try again." And this time their nets were so full they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, "O, Lord, please leave me-I'm too much of a sinner to be around you." For he was awestruck by the size of their catch, as were the others with him. His partners James and John, Zebedee's sons, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!" And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (NLT)
What do you think was going through Peter's mind when he replied, "Master, we have been fishing all night and we haven't caught a thing?" It sounds like he might have been thinking something along the lines of this: "I have been listening to Jesus address the crowds with great power and wisdom. I really respect Him as a teacher and for His knowledge of God's Word. But now He has asked me to do something that goes totally against my own knowledge and instincts about how to run my business. He doesn't know fishing. I know fish and fishing; it's my business, and this is not a practical plan. If I do what He says, it is probably going to be a waste of time and energy, and my workers are going to wonder if I have lost my mind."
Peter's skepticism, however, did not prevent him from taking a leap of faith because of who gave him the instructions. Because of his faith, he experienced miraculous results, and he was overwhelmed by what he perceived was too great a gap between himself and what Jesus would require of him.
Excerpted from Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard Phil Hodges Copyright © 2007 by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. Excerpted by permission.
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