We often associate leadership with people in a certain status or position. We see the ones at the top as leaders – the ones with the most pedigree, authority, and power. The surprising reality is that leadership has nothing to do with any of this!
So what does being a leader mean? The true definition of leadership can be summed up in one word: influence. We may not all have impressive job titles or the ability to pass laws, but we all have influence. We influence at work, at school, at home, and in our communities.
The way we treat others and interact with the world around us makes an impression on the people in our circles, and oftentimes makes a greater impact than we realize!
Being a leader isn’t about bossing people around and making your way to the top. We’re going to dive into what it means to be a leader, and we’re going to do that by looking at one of the most influential leaders in history: Jesus.
What does it mean to be a leader?
Jesus upended what it means to be a leader. While leaders in his time were strong, assertive, and presented themselves as unstoppable, Jesus came onto the scene gently, riding on a donkey, a humble man from Nazareth. His life and teachings paved the way for a new generation of leaders, one that embodies these principles:
Leaders are humble
Leadership is often mistaken for power and privilege, but Jesus showed us the opposite approach. Even though Christianity is all about Jesus, Jesus wasn’t all about Jesus – he was all about others, and in many instances put himself in the position of a servant.
Good leadership is built around humility. Jesus taught us that “those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). Similarly, he also declared that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Leaders serve others
In Mark 10:45, we read that Jesus came “not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Some people pursue leadership for self-serving reasons – they’re in it for the perks. But to be an effective leader the way Jesus modeled, we need to be ready and willing to attend to the needs of others before our own.
Leaders make more leaders
Great leaders know they can’t do it all on their own – they develop and inspire people to grow as leaders themselves. It’s wise to identify team members or people under your influence that you can invest in. But be warned, it requires a great deal of patience and trust! When you start to develop new leaders, you’re investing in the long term. Be patient, ready to hand off opportunities for ownership, and look for teachable moments when those you’re developing make a mistake.
Jesus was a pro at finding these teachable moments to help make his disciples better leaders. Consider the account in Luke 9:46-48 – while the disciples started bickering about which of them was “the best” disciple, Jesus took the opportunity to gently teach them.
It’s human nature to crave instant gratification without putting in any work, and leaders aren’t immune. It can be tempting to give up when things get hard, but Jesus showed us that a quality every great leader possesses is perseverance.
Great leaders are long-suffering. They’re committed to their mission, whatever it may be, and won’t stop no matter how long it takes. Jesus demonstrated leadership with extraordinary perseverance on his journey to the cross. In the face of unthinkable torture, Jesus didn’t falter. He knew what he needed to do for the good of others, and he saw it through to the very end.
Galatians 6:9 gives us encouragement for when leadership gets hard: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Leaders rest often
We can't deny that leadership involves tremendous effort and dedication, but strong leadership requires rest. Although Jesus tirelessly devoted himself to his mission, he understood the importance of resting. Jesus often took time away from other people to recharge and spend time with God (Mark 1:35).
Through his teachings and actions, Jesus not only modeled the value of rest for leaders but also emphasized its significance for his followers. This is best exemplified in Matthew 11:28, where Jesus extends an invitation for all who are weary and burdened to come to him and find rest. Jesus was never a proponent of hustle culture, and he shows us that successful leaders know when to take a breather.
Leaders are honest
Another key leadership quality Jesus modeled for us is honesty. Matthew 16:23 and Luke 11:37-52 are two of many instances where Jesus speaks honestly and openly, calling out his disciples when they’re in the wrong.
However, his honesty came from a place of love. Jesus was committed to honesty because he wanted others to understand their shortcomings and seek growth. As leaders, we can learn from Jesus' example and strive to speak the truth with grace. By engaging in the right conversations with the right people at the right time, we can foster an environment of honesty, transparency, and growth within our spheres of influence.
Leaders choose integrity
A true leader embodies transparency and honesty – their character shines without hidden agendas or scandalous secrets. Jesus serves as the ultimate model of integrity. As Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, he had nothing to hide and lived a blameless life, free from any need for coverups or damage control. When we strive for integrity like Jesus, we build better trust with the people we influence. Trust can take a long time to build, but it can be lost in an instant.
Given all of this, what does it mean to be a leader after all? You may be surprised to discover that none of these leadership qualities have anything to do with our authority, status, or experience. No amount of awards or accolades can give you the ability to rest or live with authenticity. No one is under-qualified to lead like Jesus did!
As you continue to discover your unique gifts to lead and influence, consider joining us at LCBC Church for the Global Leadership Summit! Each year, we spend two days learning from world-class leaders about how to influence and create lasting impact in all of our spheres: at home, at work, in our neighborhoods, and beyond!
LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you!