Jesus the Leader

"To be a good leader, you have to study the patterns of the most effective leaders who have ever lived," says Mary Ruth Swope, author of eight management books. "In my opinion, the most effective leader was Jesus. He spearheaded the concept of servant leadership--Jesus knew who he was and showed that being a servant is the best way to behave in leadership."
The management concept that has been shaking the corporate world is the idea that hierarchies in corporate management are dead. The leader's authority does not result from her position or degree but from the shared vision she carries and her acceptance as a leader by members of the organization. This concept is called "post-heroic" leadership (or "servant" leadership) because the focus is off the single magnetic leader at the top of a hierarchy (the "hero") who authoritatively sets policy. Above all, post-heroic leaders are willing, as Time magazine says, to "walk the talk", to "live by the values they espouse."
This concept of leadership may be the new mode of leadership for the corporate world for the 21st Century, but many will recognize it as a First Century idea. It's the "management program" set forth by Jesus. Jesus taught that you did not have to be a hero to be a leader. He taught just the opposite; that to be leader you must be a servant. He taught that there is no need to pull rank on each other, and that "the greatest among you will be your servant." (Matthew 23:8ff)
Jesus had twelve disciples whom he led and mentored, and they, in turn, were sent out to further the work he was doing. Jesus was willing to "walk the talk" when he demonstrated his commitment to this principle by washing his disciples feet. (John 13:5) (See also Personal Character of Jesus.)
Perhaps the most relevant example of what Jesus thought about heroic corporate leadership versus servant leadership is recorded in Matthew 20. The mother of James and John came to Jesus and asked that her sons be permitted to sit at the right and left of Jesus in the Kingdom. Obviously, the mother of these two men had a very corporate view of the kingdom. She wanted her sons to be at high points on the executive ladder, Executive Vice-Presidents of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus did not agree with this management style. He pointed to the Gentiles as a bad example of those who "lord it over" people, and wanted no part of this plan. Instead he pronounced a dictum he repeated on many occasions: "Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant."
And the model of this management style of Jesus himself? As he said,"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:21ff) Servant leadership may be a style of management to corporations, but to Jesus it was an attitude of heart.
Adapted from Donald L. Hughes, "The Leadership Model of Jesus,"
Elise Darbro, "Increasing Productivity: One Brick at a Time," Child Care Business.


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