By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Leadership is the buzzword that is sweeping through the church these days. As John Maxwell has said, “everything rises and falls with leadership.” As important as leadership is, let’s face the facts—being a leader is tough. After all, if it was easy to be a great leader, everybody would be one.
When you think about leaders, was there a better leader who ever lived than Jesus himself? He took a group of 12 ordinary men from different walks of life and used them to turn the world upside down with the gospel.
What was it about Jesus’ leadership style that caused these men and others to give him such a high level of devotion?
What leadership qualities did Jesus possess that we can learn from?
Once you discover these qualities, how can you apply them to your situation to transform those you serve and lead?
Today, I want to highlight for you 7 leadership qualities we see in the life of Jesus.
By the way, these seven qualities are the same ones the people you lead are looking for in you.
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No one wants to follow a leader who is always uncertain or unsure. There will be times you may feel this way, but this shouldn’t be who you are all the time. If there was one thing we can say about Jesus, he knew who he was and where he was going. His confidence inspired those who followed him.
When Jesus was teaching what is famously called the sermon on the mount, there was a very interesting response at the end. Notice Matthew 7:28-29:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
For a brief moment, place yourself on that mountain. Can you feel the confidence flowing out of Jesus as he is teaching the crowd? Do you hear the people whispering to themselves as he is teaching? I can imagine them saying things like this,
“This guy is amazing.”
“He really knows his stuff.”
“He seems like the type of person I could trust and follow.”
“I’ve never heard anything like this before.”
The confidence and authority flowing from Jesus attracted people to him. Because of that, pay close attention to what happened after he finished teaching.
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. – Matthew 8:1
A confident leader is one who will get people’s attention. When you get their attention and they see your level of confidence, people will follow. This doesn’t mean you are going to grow into a large mega-church. It doesn’t mean you won’t, either.
People are looking for confident leaders and when they see that quality in you, they are more willing to take a chance on following you.
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When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. – Mark 6:34
As you read through the gospels, one of the attributes of Jesus that clearly stands out is his compassion. When you define this word compassion there are two very important aspects of the word. According to dictionary.com here is what compassion means:
a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Compassion is caring.
The first aspect of compassion is caring about others’ situations. It means you are genuinely concerned about what the people you lead are going through. A friend of mine had been out of church for a long time because his wife had a brain aneurysm. He had to stay home to take care of his wife and two daughters. The situation was very intense and his wife almost died. He was serving in ministry and very active in the church but had to put that aside to attend to his family.
After missing church for an extended period of time, one day he received a letter from his church. The letter stated because you have not been in church for so long we are revoking your church membership. I always joke with him that he got fired from church. Needless to say, my friend left that church.
This is not compassion. If you approach your people like this, they will leave your church, too. Here’s a reality check: Going to your church may not always be the top priority in people’s lives, not because they don’t want to come, but because something happens in life that prevents them from coming.
When people are facing real-life situations they look for a leader who will look on them with compassion.
Compassion is taking action.
The second aspect of compassion is that it should move you to action. When you study the Scriptures you’ll discover that whenever Jesus had compassion, he responded with action.
When you can understand and care about what people are going through—and then takes steps if possible to help them—you are displaying real compassion. When you show this level of compassion you become a very attractive leader.
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Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” – Matthew 20:17-19
For this quality (and the next—clarity), I am going to refer to the same verse. One of the things you have to love about Jesus’ leadership style is that he took time to communicate with his disciples. On many occasions, they would ask Jesus questions and he always took time to address their questions.
By the way, questions are a good thing and you should encourage them.
What we discover in Jesus is he was a master communicator. We see this not only in his teaching style, but also in his interactions with his disciples and with everyone. If there are two things people like to know it’s: 1) what’s going on, and 2) what are we doing.
Please remember this, the people you lead have lives too. They have spouses, children, parents, jobs, friends, hobbies, and many things happening in their lives. The clearer you are in communicating and keeping people in the loop, the easier it is for them to make decisions.
If you are the only one who knows what’s going on, what good is that for the people who are following you? Jesus kept his disciples in the loop because he knew the road ahead was going to be tough for them. He had to keep reminding them of what was going to happen. Make sure you do the same thing, too.
Right along with communication is clarity. I love how detailed Jesus was in telling his disciples what was about to happen. He was particular. He was precise. He was clear. As important as communication is, honestly it doesn’t really matter that you said it, what matters is did they understand it?
For your communication to work, people need to be able to comprehend what you are trying to say. This requires clarity. You have probably heard these two terms before, “straight-shooter” or “beat around the bush.” What we see in Jesus is that he was a straight-shooter. He told them the truth in love. This doesn’t mean that what he said was always well-received, but your job as a leader is to not make people happy, it’s to tell them the truth.
Sometimes the truth will hurt and some people may reject it. But don’t feel bad, they did it to Jesus, too. People want clear communication. So please don’t take this for granted.
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One of the most frustrating traits in a leader is inconsistency. One day we are doing this. The next day we scrap that plan and we are going to try that. A week later it’s something totally different.
Following an inconsistent leader is tiring and exhausting, because the people never know what to expect. When you consider Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and interactions with his disciples, his message stayed the same.
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. – Matthew 11:4-5
Everywhere Jesus went...this is what he did. There was no deviation from the plan. There were no mixed messages. He charted the course and stayed on it until the work was completed.
Yes, he made detours along the way, but the message and the plan were consistent. I know they say the only constant in life is change and that is true. However, being a consistent leader matters. If you are constantly changing directions, methods, or strategies without giving them time to work, you will frustrate your people, and eventually, they will stop following you.
Competence is when you have the knowledge, judgment, and skill set to do something and to do it well. Another way of thinking about it is that you are qualified for the task. As a leader, people are looking for you to demonstrate your ability to lead. They want to know that you have the ability to navigate through the situation and move the ship forward.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he was constantly showing his disciples that he was able to lead them.
For Peter, it began with the miraculous catch of fish.
For the Samaritan woman, it was a conversation at the well.
For others, it was when he fed the five thousand, healed the blind man, or maybe when he got down and washed the disciples' feet.
For you and me, it’s the fact that he died and rose from the dead.
All of these things, throughout Jesus’ life, let us know that he had what it takes as a leader. He was constantly demonstrating his knowledge. Constantly demonstrating his skill. Constantly displaying proper judgment in every situation.
Every time he did this, he was validating the trust his followers put in him as a leader. When people see your demonstrated ability they, too, will put trust in you to lead them.
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Jesus had courage. He wasn’t afraid to confront the religious leaders of the day. He wasn’t afraid to confront the social norms of the day. He wasn’t afraid to go to a cross and die. Simply put, he wasn’t afraid to lead.
In leading you are going to have to make tough choices and decisions. That takes courage.
You are going to have to tell people things they may not want to hear. That takes courage.
People are going to disagree with you and think there is a better way and you have to be convinced that you are moving in the right direction. That takes courage.
People are looking for leaders that will stand up for their convictions. That will make decisive decisions. That will demonstrate love and compassion. That will lead by example. That will face hard challenges and make tough choices. That takes courage.
The disciples saw it in Jesus and your people are looking for it in you. By the way, courage is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to act, despite your fears. If you don’t have courage, you won’t lead well.
The Best Part
The good news is you don’t have to try to muster up all these qualities yourself. You have an amazing advantage because Jesus made you a promise.
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." – Matthew 28:20
You can lead today and be the leader that God has commissioned you to be because you don’t have to do it alone. Jesus, the greatest leader who ever lived, has promised to be with you every step of the way.
Your responsibility is to learn from him, lean on him, and operate in his strength and with his wisdom. If you do, you are well on your way to becoming the leader that your followers are looking for.
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