Ways to be a Great Leader as a Christian

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A Great Leader has the idea of moving with intentionality toward a clear and compelling objective and inspiring others to move with him or her.

Listen and Learn

In Exodus, there’s a classic story about Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. I call Jethro the first management consultant in the Bible.

Moses bragged to Jethro about all the amazing things that had happened through his leadership—taking the children of Israel through the Dead Sea and then watching their enemies drown before their eyes. The Bible doesn’t say whether Moses took the time to play with his children or spend time with his wife or work on his marriage and his family; there’s nothing in there about that. We are left to our imaginations. We do know that Moses sent his wife and his kids away to live with the in-laws because he was so busy doing the work of God. His father-in-law sent him a message: “Moses, I’m coming back to see you and, by the way, I’m bringing your family with me” (see Exod. 18:6).

Then, Jethro truly got the picture of why Moses was so busy too busy for his family. All day long, people lined up to get advice from him. The line was out the doorway of the tent and around the block. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” (v. 14). Can you imagine? People stood around all day waiting for Moses to solve their problems. That’s a leader with a problem. Jethro looked at Moses and said, “What you are doing is not good” (v. 17).

The advice from Jethro to Moses was clear. It is great advice for all of us. He told Moses to build a team and learn to delegate (vv. 21-23). He would lighten his load by sharing it with others. Jethro basically said, “You need to appoint other people to help you. You don’t have to be a control freak; you alone don’t have to do everything. You have to spread the load. You have to build a team. You have to be able to spend time with your family. You have to have time off. You’re going to burn yourself out.”

The advice from Jethro to Moses was clear. It is great advice for all of us. He told Moses to build a team and learn to delegate (vv. 21-23). He would lighten his load by sharing it with others. Jethro basically said, “You need to appoint other people to help you. You don’t have to be a control freak; you alone don’t have to do everything. You have to spread the load. You have to build a team. You have to be able to spend time with your family. You have to have time off. You’re going to burn yourself out.”

There’s not a single one of us who doesn’t have areas in which we need to grow. Remember the “L” in LEADERSHIP, the first of the ten critical characteristics every new leader must master: Be a good listener and a lifelong learner.

Accessibility

Even Jesus had an open-door policy. He had time for people, especially His inner circle of twelve. Isn’t it amazing how much he got done in so little time? I would think He felt a lot of pressure to accomplish His assigned mission on earth. So why did He not seem rushed? Luke 4:40 says, “At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.”

Here’s a similar story from Matthew:

News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds … followed him. Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. (4:24-5:2)

He was accessible to both His leadership team and to the people. When His team tried to push away the crowds, He usually rebuked them and remained accessible.

Servant Leader

Jesus Christ demonstrated what servant leadership truly is. If you follow His life as described in the Gospels in the New Testament, you will see clearly that He walked in a spirit of humility. Certainly, He was all about being servant first. Humility is at the core of servant leadership.

During the final evening He shared with his team, Jesus gave His twelve disciples the ultimate visual aid of being a servant by washing their feet. Taking the initiative, He did what no one else around the table was willing to do. Before a meal in those days, a servant was usually present to wash everyone’s feet because of the dusty roads. Since no servant was present, He took up the towel and basin and did the dirty work of serving His followers. His lesson was clear:

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:12-15)

I have always thought that if anyone ever had the right to be served and to lead as a dictator, it would have been Jesus. After all, He was perfect, God in the flesh. But He practiced what Greenleaf called servant first. That is what He was driving home during those final hours with His team. He knew they would be tempted to grab power and become proud because they had served next to Jesus Christ Himself. What did Jesus mean when He asked us to wash each other’s feet? To practice servant first with each other bathed in humility.

As crazy as it might seem, during that very dinner, an argument arose among the disciples about who was the greatest (there goes that natural human spirit). They were positioning themselves for being C-level leaders on the team. Each felt that he deserved to be number two next to Jesus. Jesus’s response went right to the servant leadership message:

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27)

How is it that modeling what servant leadership really is? There is no better example for us to follow. My definition for servant leadership is “when the leader cares more about the good of the team than his or her own enrichment.”

Integrity

One place where the integrity of Moses showed up time and again was his faithfulness to God’s seemingly insignificant commands. He was known as a leader who sweated the small stuff. Over and over Scripture tells us, “Moses did as the Lord commanded him” (Num. 27:22). This phrase appears ninety-four times in the Old Testament.

It’s true that the devil’s in the details, and we leaders usually stumble in small acts of disobedience. Moses was not only a grand, visionary leader but also a man who paid attention to small details. Much of the content of the books of Moses is about minute details of legislation, lifestyle, obedience, and building the tabernacle God told him to build.

Moses knew how important it was to play by God’s rules. That’s why at the very end of his life, he reminded everyone again about the details of integrity and how to be successful in God’s economy. When Moses finished reciting all the words to Israel, he said this to them: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (Deut. 32:46-47). These were great leadership words as Moses passed the baton to Joshua.

Just to be clear, this integrity message is not just for spiritual people. It’s not just about the Bible and what the Bible says about integrity. Some of today’s greatest leadership writers in the secular realm talk about how important it is to have character and integrity in order for people to trust and follow you.

In summary:

A Great leader has a mission to accomplish and rallies others to work with him/her to accomplish it.

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