There’s a good reason people don’t like telling the truth. Just look at the vast majority of politicians. This is a primary reason we don’t have leaders in politics. Our political climate isn’t about what’s true or even what’s right, but about what wins. Politicians are more concerned with winning elections, gaining power, and promoting a party agenda than being truthful, passing along power, and promoting what’s best.
Jesus didn’t spin the truth for his best interest. He certainly wasn’t concerned with his image. He told the truth. We should, too. Always. Yes, there is a cost to honestly. There is also a cost for dishonesty. Leaders must determine which price they are willing to pay.
2. Jesus called his followers to more.
There were many moments when Jesus’ closest followers, the disciples, wanted a position of power in what they believed to be a pending, earthly kingdom. Matthew gives us one of the most famous examples. I won’t repeat the entire interaction, but here is the leadership point:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
Basically, Jesus looks at these future leaders and says, “if you want to lead like me, die to yourself.”
Jesus knew these men would become critical leaders in the movement. These men weren’t yet great leaders, but they would need to be in time. Unlike the Roman and Jewish leaders around them, Jesus called his future leaders to lead through self-denial.
To lead like Jesus means putting the benefit of others ahead of yourself. It means sacrificing yourself for the mission and the people. It means being uncomfortable to provide comfort. Leading like Jesus is a call to more than basic leadership.
3. Jesus balanced compassion and conviction.
Nobody on the planet held stronger convictions than Jesus. After all, he was God. He was passionate about people living life to the full and experiencing joy along the way. As a leader, though, Jesus balanced his deep convictions with deep compassion.
You see this repeatedly, mostly in his interactions with people whose lifestyle or behavior irritated the convictions of others. See Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) or with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42).
To lead like Jesus means holding solid convictions about your mission and vision while maintaining compassion for the people executing and experiencing the mission and vision.
4. Jesus was an authority living under authority.
In all things, Jesus listened to the voice of God. Even though he was the Son of God, He refused to allow his exalted position to determine his earthly power.
The Apostle Paul noted this leadership trait when writing a letter to the churches in the city of Philippi.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
– Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV)
Every leader needs accountability under authority because no leader is safe outside of accountability and authority. Leading like Jesus means accepting the authority of others and remaining accountable to them. If you have a board, submit to their authority. If you lead a small organization without built-in authority, find people you trust to serve as a personal board of advisors. While they may not have legal authority, you can give them authority.