The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus: Practical Lessons for Today

The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus: Practical Lessons for Today

by Charles C. Manz

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NEW EDITION, REVISED AND UPDATED In this new edition of the bestselling classic, Charles Manz doesn’t look to Jesus’s teachings to support preconceived theories of how a manager should lead but approaches the New Testament with an open mind to see what insights it reveals for today’s business world. What he finds are powerful lessons that will inspire you—no matter what your religious background—to maintain integrity, live on a higher plane, and ultimately achieve your personal and professional goals. The third edition is updated throughout and includes several new examples and a self-assessment chapter designed to encourage self-examination and personal reflection. Remarkably contemporary and welcoming to all readers, this book will challenge you to evaluate your own leadership style and to consider time-tested spiritual wisdom that can make you more enlightened and more effective.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609940065
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 08/01/2011
Series: 0
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 1,023,864
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Charles C. Manz, PhD, is a speaker, consultant to many Fortune 500 companies, and bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Wisdom of Solomon at Work, Emotional Discipline, The Power of Failure, and The New SuperLeadership. He is the Nirenberg Chaired Professor of Business Leadership in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

A Call to Wise and Compassionate Leadership

When you are called upon to lead, in any capacity, are you effective? Is your leadership ethical and just? Are you able to provide positive influence for others that benefits them as well as the end that is being served?

Now let’s go even deeper. Are you able to lead yourself effectively? Do you serve as an ethical, moral, effective example for others? Do you lead with humility? Do you lead with compassion? Have you mastered the arts of forgiveness and service? Can you be like a child when that is required? Do you understand and put into practice the Golden Rule? Do you know the secret of mustard seed power?

There is a powerful and informative literature dating back hundreds of years that addresses historical thinking on wisdom. It is especially centered on the writings and teachings of mostly ancient, and usually religious, leaders. A number of historical leaders and thinkers have achieved a special level of greatness and wisdom. King Solomon, Moses, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Gandhi, Muhammad, and many others have struck a chord with multitudes in an unusually powerful way. As our contemporary knowledge continues to expand dramatically, it would be a grave mistake to forget the vast wisdom of such key historical figures.

It is in this spirit that I undertook this project. Initially I had intended to draw on the teachings of three or four renowned historical leaders, but I quickly concluded that the thinking of each deserves a separate volume. It is my sincere hope that reflecting on the leadership wisdom contained in this book will provide the reader with special insights that cannot be gained from contemporary leadership thought alone.

Of course times have changed over the past millennia. Some of us will question whether the wisdom of the ancient past is relevant today, especially wisdom that is often connected with religions. This is especially true if we take the traditional view of organizations as existing only to maximize profit and return on investment for shareholders. Yet looking beyond profit and financial return is quite a contemporary idea. Again and again companies that are putting the welfare of their employees and customers first are rising to the top as the highest performers over the long run. Sometimes an attitude of service is the best way to achieve bottom-line gains. But even when it is not, an enlightened and educated population is realizing that doing what is right (ethically, morally, and otherwise) is usually a much more satisfying and worthwhile way to live than focusing first on the bottom line. Besides, most of us could stand to learn more about wisdom, even if we choose not to act according to all of its teachings.

This book is about leadership lessons from the teachings of Jesus. The very name Jesus conjures up all kinds of images and emotions. Some people initially feel very positive and open. Others are hesitant. Still others are likely to be threatened and put off. My intention in exploring the leadership lessons contained in Jesus’ teachings is to provide to a broad audience helpful insights that transcend cultural heritage or religious background. I sincerely believe that there is a great deal we all can learn about relating to and influencing one another from the challenging and penetrating teachings of Jesus. Indeed, his powerful leadership lessons point to a fresh approach that can enable both leaders and followers to maintain their integrity, live on a higher plane, and ultimately reach their personal and professional goals through sound, practical principles.

It is important to note that much of the wisdom of Jesus’ teachings does not directly address leadership. Nevertheless, I believe that his teachings offer a wealth of ethical and practical guidance for leadership practice. Thus, throughout the book I will first share excerpts from Jesus’ teachings, then offer reflections on the implications for leadership, and then suggest lessons for aspiring wise and compassionate leaders.

My intention is not to be religious in focus. Rather, I will address the subject of leadership in a way that captures some of the spiritual yet practical wisdom of the teachings of Jesus. Extensive debate has occurred on the literal veracity versus the symbolic nature of the Bible’s account of Jesus’ life and teachings. Some writers have questioned how many of the quotations found in the New Testament Gospels can accurately be attributed directly to Jesus.1 This book will treat the biblical text as a historical record of lessons that are consistent with the tenor of Jesus’ thinking and that provide wisdom from which to learn.

Jesus was especially fond of using parables—simple stories illustrating moral lessons—in his teaching. He also made extensive use of short sayings, especially aphorisms (memorable one-liners). Many of his teachings were repeated frequently, sometimes through a slightly different story or an alternative captivating saying. Although Jesus had a great deal to say about a variety of issues, many of his teachings focus especially on such common, powerful themes as the advantages of forgiveness over judgment, the importance of love and service, the power of humility, and the wisdom of recognizing the deeper value of every person. Consequently, some of the lessons I discuss overlap with others. This is arguably an important strength of Jesus’ teachings. He made sure that his important points were not missed. By reviewing important ideas, often from slightly different perspectives, his teachings were woven into a complementary whole. Ultimately, when Jesus’ lessons have unfolded side by side, the complete picture they create might be thought of as a beautiful yet highly effective hand-painted fan, a priceless work of art for power-filled living. I hope that this book does a reasonable job of linking important parts of that whole to practical issues of leading ourselves and others.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, the lessons provided herein should help shed light on the path to effective leadership. More important, I believe, the lessons presented reveal a great deal about the constructive power of unleashing the positive spirit of leadership—of being right with the inner value and spirit of human beings—while engaging in the act of influencing ourselves and others. This is a very important goal because although many types of leadership can coerce, bribe, or inspire the desired behavior and performance of followers in the short run, long-run development and performance require influence that is more consistent with the inner truth of each person. I believe that all human beings desire (and perhaps require), at some level, dignity and a commitment to a positive spiritual connection with others. Treating people right and helping them to be right with themselves and the rest of the world is perhaps the only legitimate choice for long-term effective leadership.

One important caveat should be kept in mind: sometimes when we refer to positive personal outcomes we are talking about the very long term. Although Jesus addressed many practical issues and needs of his day, he was ultimately concerned with life beyond earthly existence. Thus his teachings were not necessarily intended to pay off in a human lifetime. Some of his wisdom may point the way to what is moral and good, yet not lead to the power, wealth, or other leadership trappings to which many aspire. In some cases, in the short run it may lead to the opposite. Surprisingly, however, Jesus’ wise teachings are frequently proving to be consistent with many contemporary leadership principles that are leading to tremendous payoffs for enlightened leaders and their organizations in the here and now.

Many books have been written that prescribe leadership tactics designed to squeeze out immediate self-serving payoffs. Some instruct leaders to be commanding and intimidating. Others point to reward or incentive-based leadership that exchanges desired rewards for follower compliance. Still others argue that leaders should be inspiring and visionary, swayers of the masses through charisma and the captivating pull of the leaders’ causes. Leadership books have shared the insights of well-known military commanders, presidents, martyrs, and prominent business executives. Indeed, the lessons of a vast array of famous individuals have been written about at length, from Attila the Hun to Abraham Lincoln to Mahatma Gandhi to Winston Churchill to Lee Iacocca to Jack Welch. The lessons included in this book will draw from the wise yet practical insights of Jesus about leadership—a kind of leadership that is profoundly effective and at the same time based on a deeper wisdom and recognition of spirituality.

This book should encourage the reader to confront some very important but often overlooked aspects of being a leader. Bending the will of others to your own may serve your immediate objectives in the short run. However, the leadership that Jesus teaches offers some tremendous long-term advantages for the leader as well as the led. In the end, leadership based on sound, positive principles, such as living by the Golden Rule and leading by serving others, may be the only real way to serve yourself and master the true art of leadership. This art promises to ascend well above leadership myths that tempt us to become great in a worldly sense at the expense of other people. It teaches some seemingly strange but powerful leadership lessons, like racing for last place, cleansing your insides, putting the gavel away, and using the power of golden mustard seeds. These and many other lessons are discussed in detail in the chapters that follow. Careful study of these lessons may change your thinking about leadership forever and provide valuable insights into how to promote a more constructive and compassionate world for all of us.

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