The Greatest Leadership Lesson I’ve Learned from Jesus

Your people will always be your greatest product.

Jesus gave us many great examples of leadership. Servanthood, sacrifice, prayer—all essential. But one example more than any other has affected my life and my leadership.

The Greatest Leadership Lesson I’ve Learned from Jesus

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When we think about it, Jesus needed no one. As Paul wrote, “All things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). In fact, the One who made the world with a word could have accomplished His whole ministry alone.

This ministry would have been perfectly carried out without people. If perfection was the goal, people were clearly in the way. But seeing Jesus’ ministry that way misses the whole point of it.

If we are to be effective leaders, parents, grandparents, and Christians, we must see ministry as Jesus did.

Leadership Begins with Relationship

Jesus never sat on the couch and barked out orders behind the TV. He never cloistered Himself in His office and led by sending emails. He never claimed the ministry was “His” and others should click their heels. His leadership included relationship.

He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach. —Mark 3:14

Notice the order. First they would be with Him. Then they would serve Him.

He invested time with His men.  From that relationship, He communicated love, vision, correction, and direction. Once convinced of His love for them, they laid down their lives for Him.

I heard Josh McDowell once tell a group of parents: “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” That also works in the workplace and in the church.

Jesus didn’t operate that way. Neither should we.

Leadership Values People by Including Them

Jesus included people in the work rather than merely using them for the work.

This is huge.

Your people will always be your greatest product

(Photo by Photodune)

Jesus saw His disciples, His little children—His servants—as His best product. Let’s make that practical for us:

Jesus trained His men in the context of relationship and then entrusted them to do the work of the ministry. When they failed, He never jerked it all back and rebuked them. He saw failure as a means of growth.

That’s what the good shepherd does. The bad shepherd is focused only on himself or herself. As Jesus said:

He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. —John 10:13

It’s the same in all leadership and parenting. A good leader cares for the life of his/her sheep. A bad leader fleeces the sheep and ultimately abandons them. You can’t build a successful family, business, ministry—anything—if those who work “under” you feel like chopped liver. They need to know you love them. 

Love them, and they will give their lives for you. Jesus proved that.

The True Mission: Your People

As the Lord began His ministry, He could have snapped His fingers and healed everyone, fed everyone, and met every need in a moment.

Instead, He included imperfect people in the process:

  • The feeding of 5000 included the disciples (Matt. 14:19).
  • He sent the apostles out two by two (Mark 6:7ff).
  • Peter, James, and John witnessed special miracles (Mark 5:37; 14:33; Luke 18:51).
  • In distress in Gethsemane, Jesus requested others to stay with Him (Matt. 26:36).

Including people in the process gave them value and allowed them to contribute their unique gifts. The point? Jesus never saw people as merely a tool to use to accomplish His ministry. They were the ministry.

They were the mission.

It must be the same with us.

Question: Do you see people as a means to an end or as the primary goal? To leave a comment, just click here.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Such a great post, Wayne! Great perspective.

    • Thank you, Laura. Jesus’ model is unparalleled both in its wisdom and its effectiveness. I’m grateful for your affirming words.

  • Gary Johnson

    Yes, this is the Gold Standard of leadership. Having been in senior mgmt of a nationwide construction company for 35 years before I retired, I saw this modeled by the Christian owner of the company and it worked. The company flourished under his leadership. He retired, company was sold and new leaders have NOT modeled this. The results are frustrated employees. Less then flourishing performance. Thanks for focusing me once again on these truths of effective leadership.

    • You’re welcome, Gary. Like you, I’ve seen it over and over. Whether the context is business or ministry, secular or sacred, the principles work because they’re true and that’s how God designed us. Jesus modeled it better than anyone. I appreciate you sharing your story; it’s been my experience as well. Thanks.

  • ARM BAR

    I really don’t know exactly that i see people as a means to an end or as a primary goal,but what i know is that i don’t like to see anyone who is in power and treat others like a trash because he or she has an advantage over them,and if anyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ then he or she better follow also what Jesus Has taught ,good topic Wayne,this is a very important topic.

    • What you describe is both tough to see and even more difficult to experience. Thanks.

  • Carl Rasmussen

    Wonderful thoughts to ponder, especially in relation to “demands” on our time, and our involvement in projects, social media, etc. Thank you.

    • That’s a great way to apply these principles, Carl. It’s so easy to confuse our real purpose in it all. Thanks.

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