Six Jesus-Centered steps to becoming a leader
"What makes a person a good leader?" "Can leadership skills be acquired, or are they innate?"
It was questions like these that lead me to study leadership in college. At the end of my degree program, I came away with two truths. The first is that everyone leads. If you look around, you won’t have to search far before finding someone who is following you, your kids, coworkers, or friends. Whether it’s intentional or not, you are a leader.
The second truth was that no two people are the same. This truth didn’t come as a surprise to me, but it still made me rethink how I acted in my leadership roles. In each of my classes we studied leadership in different settings, and each class emphasized that every setting and everyone is different. This means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for leadership. In fact, treating each person as if they’re the same can lead to trouble.
In the world of leadership studies, this is called the "situational approach." Rather than appealing to everyone with the same motivators, or threatening them with the same consequences, a situational leader first examines each person in their setting. Then they determine the right course of action depending on what they find.
Jesus was this type of leader. When reading the Gospels, it’s hard to find two individuals who receive the same treatment. With certain people Jesus is soft, tender, and nurturing, like he was with the woman caught in adultery. But sometimes Jesus was abrasive, turning over tables, or calling people out like he did when one of his disciples tried to convince him not to fulfill his mission. Jesus knew (and still knows) what each person needs at the exact time they needed it. He saw into their hearts and lead them based on his findings.
Unfortunately we can’t can’t see into people like Jesus can. Even still, we can learn how to apply situational leadership in each of our relationships, whether it’s at home or at work.
Here are six Jesus-centered steps to becoming a leader
- Prepare yourself. It takes work to discover what motivates each person around you. And sometimes we find that what we thought was helping was actually hindering. I found this a lot when I first sat down to analyze my family. My two boys are very different, and I had been trying to motivate them in the same way. As much as I hated to admit it, I wasn’t helping them by offering them the same rewards or the same punishments, and I needed to let go of some of my own hangups to find a good solution.
- Have conversations. The people around you can teach you a lot if you listen. I’ve found that great connections can be made over hot coffee or cocoa. You don’t even have to talk about serious things--just get them talking and you’ll discover a lot.
- Take notes. It sounds meticulous, but in the first stages of getting to know people at work, or even your own family, it helps to write the important things down so you don’t confuse one person with another. Consulting your notes can clear up confusion and lead to a solution quicker and easier.
- Be willing to change. Like I noted in the first step, you may come to a point where you realize that you're wrong. Don’t let that disappoint you. Take it as a lesson and move forward.
- Do some research. Read the Gospels and highlight the examples of great leadership. Look at how Jesus dealt with each situation and meditate on it. How can God teach you through that example? He knows your heart, and he’ll steer you in the right direction.
- When all else fails, serve. Serving others can help in a couple of ways. First, it breaks down barriers. If you lead people, especially in an office/work setting, it’s imperative that you be willing to help those who are following your lead. They will become more comfortable with the relationship and open up to you more than they would’ve otherwise. Second, serving gets to the heart of Jesus. In Mathew 20, Jesus tells his followers, “But whoever should be great among you must be your servant… even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”. Jesus himself was willing to serve those he led as part of his leadership. We should be willing to as well.