Jesus’ leadership characteristics versus the leadership characteristics of Christian leaders today.
Times magazine (Dec. 06, 1999), designated Jesus Christ as the “man of all millenniums.” I’m sure certain Christians we shocked too! Among the contestants (not that Jesus has any rivals) were Mohammed, Mohandas Gandhi, Freud, Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, etc… Time’s polls, attempted to judge the acts and works of leaders who acquired great power and changed the lives of millions. The polls also attempted to judge the acts in which “men render unto Caesar”, not expressions of faith.
Judging from a secular criterion, the humble Galilean, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, “won” their title, hands down! “It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure–not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth,” said the editor Reynolds Price. What exactly is it about Jesus that makes Him the greatest leader of human history?
The Leadership Characteristics of Jesus
Though not a complete list, Dr Bert Watson examines seven leadership characteristics that were evident in the life and ministry of Jesus (Watson, 2019). Though impossible for any of us too perfectly emulate the leadership style of Jesus, some of His traits are not only possible but essential for emerging Christian leaders (2019).
1) Consecration—Jesus never acted independently (John 5:19-20; 6:38). In the kingdom, leadership starts follow-ship. We follow God first and the authority that God sets over us (Hebrew 13:17-25). My experience as a pastor has shown me that very few children of God are willing the pay the price of consecrating their lives, desires, decisions motives to serve God. The law of consecration shows us, To Lead, You Must Follow!
2) Connection—Jesus lead out of relationship (John 17:3-4, Mark 1:35-39, Luke 6: 12-13).
In the kingdom, relationships trump profit. One of the most striking attributes of Jesus’ leadership was that He never placed connection (with His Father) over crowds (Watson, Bert. 2019). Even during the busy and fruitful periods of His ministry, Jesus still maintained a vibrant prayer life. It was during these moments of intimate fellowship that He received, fresh direction and wisdom for both life and ministry. Unfortunately, many leaders today forsake this intimacy for productivity or even worse busyness! The evidence of usually manifests through fatigue, burnouts, depression and other kinds of moral sin, such as sexual perversion and divorce. The law of connection shows us, To Lead, You Must Be Connected to God!
3) Character—Jesus demonstrated character through service (Matthew 18:1–5; Mark 9:33–37; Luke 9:46–54).
In the kingdom, the way up is down. The lowest ranking person in the Greco Roman world was a child. Yet Jesus said, whoever receives (welcome, consider) one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” He was speaking this in the context of “greatness.” Unfortunately, in today’s church leadership, we use the least (poor) only to window-dress our real hearts motives. This is evident in the fact that we “welcome” only those who can advance our agenda. The law of character shows us, To Lead, You Must Welcome the Least To Sit On Our Laps!
4) Compassionate—Jesus leads with compassion (Matthew 9:35–38, Mark 1: 40–42, John 8:3–11).
In the kingdom, leaders touch lepers, leaders don’t quarantine them. This is so because it is all about people and things. Love, care, compassion are traits synonymous to Jesus, more than any other leader in human history. In contrast to the judgemental, legalistic and militant styled of leadership that is so prevalent within the church, Jesus’ leadership was marked with great compassion. The law of compassion shows us, To Lead, You Must Touch Hearts With Compassion.
5) Competence—Jesus was skilled (John 5:17–20, Proverbs 22:29, John 7:14–18).
In the kingdom, leaders become competent by sharping their skills continuously. Without training, we cannot become efficient. Jesus trained as He observed His Father (John 5:17-20). He never emulated himself, nor did he rely on his own wisdom or abilities. He was not only a competent communicator before the crowds but a skilled trainer within his inner circle. Modern-day church leaders can learn how to engage transformational leadership by conversing, modelling, equipping, delegating, and empowering. Our bible school curriculum and often our preaching caters mainly for equipping people for the five-fold ministry when a larger part of the church is called into other sectors of society. Thus, they remain ill-equipped to effectively lead in secular spheres like the Joseph’s or Esther’s of our times. The law of competence shows us, To Lead, You Must Touch Hearts With Compassion.
6) Clarity of Purpose—Jesus had eagle vision (John 6:38, 17:4, Luke 19:10).
In the kingdom, leaders cannot lead by having a high definition visual of what and where? The elements of vision and clarity are indispensable! Jesus was clear about His Father’s directives, to the point of dying for it. Jesus came with an agenda that extended beyond redeeming man but redeeming the earth. It is not likely that one hears a leader empowering others not only for eternal life but how to live effectively as God’s stewards on earth. The law of clarity shows us, To Lead, You Must Have A Holistic Vision to Develop People.
7) Credibility—Jesus had a magnetic pull (Matthew 4:18–22, Luke 5:1–11).
In the kingdom, leaders cannot full God’s agenda without credibility. There is no question that one does not need to be credible to have a crowd but to have the impact that Jesus had, it requires credibility! How can leaders build credibility? Based on Dr Watson’s analysis, church leadership must focus on relationship authenticity, purity, consistency, inspiring hope, loving people, teaching with authority, modelling kingdom culture, leaning on God’s power, pursuing excellence, empowering leaders, operating in truth and doing the impossible! The law of credibility shows us, To Lead, You Must Have Fruit.
Transformational Strategies and ministry focus of Jesus and Paul.
Unless one understands that leadership is not about breath but depth, not much distinction can be traced between authentic Christ-centred leadership and worldly styled leadership. The modern-day church is obsessed with reaching the masses, “the lost at any cost” is a phrase that I think needs urgent reevaluation. At what cost are we actually referring to? Sure, there is nothing wrong with larger auditoriums, TV and social media ministry with the aim of expanding a leader’s influence (Hyatt, 2010). But when the prevalent “hyper styled evangelistic” or “materialistic centred-gospel” leadership is measured back to the leadership canonicity of Jesus, Paul and Peter, is breath all there is to leadership? Is “success” all there is to leadership?
Michael Hyatt and Dr Bert Watson, outlines some transformative leadership fundamentals between Jesus and Paul that we can contrast to the leadership in the church.
Leadership starts with self.
Self-leadership precedes team leadership and public influence (Hyatt, 2010). Jesus displayed a vibrant personal prayer life with His Father. Him defeating temptation in the wilderness when no one was there watching is a sign of the quality of character. Paul was head-bent around his calling. He managed His life and ministry accordingly. The Pauline writings are distinguished by Christology and Pneumatology. Revealing the depth of Paul’s fellowship with Christ and the Spirit through the Word. It was from this place, Paul led, and set the example for others to emulate.
Today, many leaders have little concept of self-leadership, that is rooted in a deep experiential relationship with Christ and the Spirit. They can’t even arrive on time for a meeting. Their “disciples” are more head-bent around them and their church branding than Jesus and His Kingdom.
Leadership is relationship.
Jesus and Paul both practised what I refer to as the 1, 3, 12, 60 principles. They occasionally spoke to the crowds (60) but their focus was on smaller groups, including individuals (12, 3, 1). Teaching and reaching many, discipline and training a few approaches (Watson, 2019) was an essential key to transformative leadership. The lasting impact that each of their disciples had, long after Jesus and Paul were no longer present, is evident in the effectiveness of this strategy. Personally, this has strategy has given me great hope and determination to not only continue to. concentrate on smaller key leaders but to adopt the “4H” holistic method of development (Watson, 2019).
Why Peter’s Leadership touches me?
I think am a lot like Peter and a lot not like him. I have no formal education, but like Peter, I’m blessed with natural leadership abilities. The story that always struck me a Peter was when he walked on water.
Most of my life and ministry, metaphorically, has been a series of walking on water, purely based on what I’ve heard Jesus say to me. Having been a first-generation Christian, from Roman Catholic, I can also identify with Peter, who was the first in his family to follow Christ from Judaism. Usually, the first generation pays the dearest price for laying the foundation for the next to follow.
Still, the love for the Lord, and His will, word and people that I see in the life of Peter is the spiritual fuel that keeps my engine running.
- Price, Reynolds. 1999. “Jesus at 2000.” Time Magazines, Dec 1999
- Hyatt, Michael. 2010 (24 March). “The Leadership Strategy of Jesus.” Michael Hyatt. http://michaelhyatt.com/the-leadership-strategy-of-jesus.html
- Watson, Bert. 2019. PRA1124 Biblical Leadership Study Guide (ver. 4.3). Johannesburg: South African Theological Seminary.