You can’t really talk about leadership unless you talk about Jesus. Even if you aren’t a follower of Jesus, it’s undeniable that Jesus is the greatest leader who ever lived.
Are you skeptical about that statement? I don’t blame you. But if the definition of a “leader” is someone who has followers, then Jesus comes in first place. For more than 2,000 years, no single person has had more followers than Jesus.
Unfortunately, the greatest leader who ever lived is often given only a cursory look when it comes to leadership wisdom.
So let’s change that, starting now: I want to share with you a few ideas about Jesus-style leadership. To get at that, I want to draw from the Greatest Commandment. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and he said, “Love God, love yourself and love others.” (That is my paraphrase of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”)
In other words, we’re about to look at the Greatest Commandment of the greatest Leader who ever lived.
Lead in Three Directions
In the Greatest Commandment, Jesus tells us that we all live in three directions: Upward, inward and outward. That’s why I wrote the book, “Upward, Inward, Outward: Love God, Love Yourself, Love Others.” We live upward by loving God. We live inward by loving ourselves. We live outward by loving others.
But we don’t only live in three directions; we also lead in three directions. We lead others and ourselves upward, inward and outward.
Here’s the key: You need to lead in all three directions, and in that specific order, all at the same time.
Let that sink in for a moment.
We can all recall leaders who only led in one direction. Were they life-giving leaders? No. Did their glaring deficiencies create havoc? Yes. It’s not enough to be a great one-directional leader and leave the other directions to languish. Two out of three directions is better, but not best. We must learn how to lead in all three directions.
The Art of Leading is Loving
If the art of living is loving (and according to the Greatest Commandment, it is), then it should come as no surprise that the art of leading is loving, too.
As we lead in all three directions, we are actually told to love. Now the word “love” has a number of different words used in the original languages in which the Bible was written. But the word used here means self-sacrifice. The most simple example of this is the love of a mother for her child. A mother literally gives of herself for her child’s well-being. This is exactly the message of Jesus, that he loved people so much he gave his own life.
Talk about leadership gold! Jesus invites leaders to love self-sacrificially.
This flies in the face of most of our ideas and expectations of leaders. Most leaders are trying to get what they need from the people that are on their team. Jesus says, in effect, your team members are there for you to give of yourself for their well-being.
You see, Jesus doesn’t want us to see people as commodities, who exist simply to fulfill a service. Jesus wants us to see people as individuals created in the image and likeness of God, who have intrinsic value. Jesus wants us not just to make people productive. Jesus wants us to love people into their God-given potential. That is Jesus-styled leadership.