Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lead Like Jesus

I was invited to speak before the Muntinlupa Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the occasion of the induction of their new set of officers. I was asked to speak on God-Fearing Leadership, which I believed was a fitting topic to the occasion.

Usually I do speeches extemporaneously, but with the serious topic given to me, I wanted to give justice to the subject matter and honor to the people who invited me so I prepared a speech the night before. I wanted to deliver a message that did not stray from the subject.

I know it goes against the norms of blogging (some people say blogs should be short and sweet) but I will go against the norm and post my entire speech here. To the blogging purists, I beg your indulgence...


1. What exactly is leadership?

What exactly is leadership? Is it the power to give orders and impose punishment? Is it having the best of all things ahead of everyone else? Or is it having everyone else serve you as their master?

Leadership is all about influence. Once we are able to influence how others think or act towards a desired outcome, we are exercising leadership. Unfortunately, that influence may be good or bad. But with the power in the hands of a leader (influence is power), it is important that the leadership we exercise or choose to follow is tempered with justice, honesty and wisdom. Leadership is not a position, it is a responsibility. And, as it is said in Spiderman the Movie, with great power comes great responsibility.

2. What kind of leadership do we desire?

Having God-fearing leadership is desirable because it connotes an obedience to God's commandments and principles. Logically, one who fears the Lord (and the fires of hell) will do well not to disobey the laws of God. Some even say that as long as you keep within the bounds of the 10 commandments, you are safe. But in my opinion, this also connotes a passive leadership, one that confines itself within the parameters of specific commandments. It is leadership in a box.

Instead of a “God-Fearing Leadership”, which, as it clearly states, is based on fear, I prefer to support a “Jesus-Style Leadership”. For me, a Jesus-Style Leadership is a more proactive kind of leadership because leaders of this mould are not confined within a specific set of do's and don'ts. The leadership style of Jesus is one of thinking outside the box, as evidenced by the many times that he escaped the entrapment set up by the Pharisees who asked Him questions designed to paint Him into a corner.

Even His disciples were often astounded by how He led them. In one instance, after preaching to a crowd, He instructed Simon(Peter) to go out into deeper water and let down his nets to catch more fish. Peter said that they had already gone out and worked hard the previous night but they had not caught a thing. But giving recognition to Jesus, Simon went against his judgment based on experience and skill and followed Jesus. Deep in his mind, Simon must have thought, “I'm the fisherman and he's a carpenter. I should be the expert here. But somehow, I am compelled to trust Him and follow his advice.”

Of course we all know that after they set out, they immediately caught so many fish their nets almost broke.

That is the kind of leadership that Jesus had. He did not confine himself to a set of boundaries and limitations. He thought out of the box. But of course, He lived and acted in accordance to God's desire of a holy and principled life.

More than just giving orders, leadership is more about following. As the cliché goes, a good leader is good follower. Likewise, the most effective leaders lead by example.

3. What is Leadership “Jesus-Style”?

In his book, author Ken Blanchard said that Jesus' leadership is a transformational leadership. He explained that Jesus' leadership had a cycle of transformation that “begins from personal leadership, then to leading others in one-on-one relationships, then to leading a team or group, and finally, to leading an organization or community”.

As stated previously, before one becomes an effective leader, one must be a faithful follower. Hence, personal leadership is a must. We must be able to control our own desires, master our character and overcome our own weaknesses. We must take leadership over ourselves. If we are able to show others that we have personal discipline, then it will be easy to impose and invoke discipline on those you lead. A leader who expects his followers to follow the rules while he himself breaks those rules cannot expect others to acknowledge his leadership. Jesus showed that He had mastered Himself, when he was tempted by the devil after fasting 40 days and nights in the desert.

Once the leader has mastered himself, he must then gain the confidence, respect and trust of his peer. This is usually done one person at a time, founded on a one-on-one relationship. Before you can influence an entire group, you must first be able to show others that at least one other person will entrust his life in your hands.

As a leaders' following grows from a one-on-one relationship to a group, organization and eventually to a community, his sphere of influence likewise grows, necessitating the replication of his leadership in all levels of his sphere of influence. The good leader knows how to delegate. Jesus did this through The Great Commission, when he empowered his disciples to “go out into the world” and continue the work He started. Jesus returned the trust He gained from His followers and entrusted them with their own leadership sphere.

In Jesus' transformational leadership, there two domains that give his leadership a character that makes it ideal. First is the internal domain, comprising of the head and the heart, and contend mainly with matters that are within the person, specifically his motivations (heart) and perspective (head). A person may reveal what his motives or perspectives are, or he may keep it to himself, depending on what he believes is beneficial.

The second is the external domain, which deals with what the leader does in public, or what he does with his hands and what others experience in dealing with him in a day-to-day capacity, or his habits. The external domain is usually what makes people decide whether to follow the leader or not.

These leadership aspects---head, heart, hands and habits--- when all of these are in synch, the leader reaps a high level of trust, confidence, loyalty and even productivity. When others doubt the sufficiency of each of these aspects in a leader, you can be sure that somewhere down the road a leadership crisis will ensue.

4. The Four Aspects of Jesus-Style Leadership

Heart – Influencing others is mainly a heart issue. Your motivation for attempting to influence others is at question. Are you doing it out of a sincere desire to help or serve? Or are you doing it for personal benefit?

When Jesus washed the disciples feet, it was to drive home the point that leadership is first and foremost, all about service. Service to others, not self-service.

Head – having the right motivations to lead by service is further enhanced when a leader is able to rationalize his motives to serve, and has a clear definition of his role in the lives of those whom he leads.

Hands – What the leader does in public will reveal to those around him the desires of his heart and the reasons in his head. A leader who has the purest motivations and a clear perspective of his role as a leader will be able to raise leaders who will carry on his work long after he is gone or moved on. As leadership is influencing others, it may be said that being able to inspire others through his works to do the same is a measure of success for a leader.

Habits – habits are repetitive behavior. In leadership, repetition of the act of servant leadership is actually a renewal of the commitment to serve rather than be served. It is a manifestation that the leader has internalized his responsibility and does not have to consciously make an effort to fulfill his role as a source of influence to others. It has become automatic, a way of life. Another word for it is consistency.

When all these four aspects are in place and in synch, a leader will definitely be a person of great influence to others. Proof of this is the fact that what is known as a major movement around the world with millions of followers today started with just one leader---Jesus. I do not think there is anyone who has ever lived on this earth who has had the same influence on such a huge number of followers through his leadership. Truly, the Jesus-Style Leadership is one that should be emulated.

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