Few people have influenced the day-to-day management of people and companies more than Ken Blanchard. At the age of thirty-five, Ken Blanchard became a professor at the University of Massachusetts. A few years later, in 1982, he wrote The One Minute Manager, which has sold more than 13 million copies. The book was so successful in such a short period of time that he had trouble taking credit for its success. He began to think about God. He started to read the Bible. He went straight to the Gospels. He wanted to know what Jesus did.
Ken became fascinated with how Jesus transformed twelve ordinary, and unlikely, people into the first generation of leaders of a movement that continues to affect the course of world history 2,000 years later. He became aware that everything he had ever taught or written about effective leadership during the previous thirty-five years, Jesus had done to perfection way beyond anyone’s ability to portray or describe. Below are the leadership characteristics that lead the greatest movement ever recorded. They represent real leadership. So, what does it mean, in practice, to “lead like Jesus?”
A leader’s characteristics
• Lead from who you are more than your position. Who you are is far more important than what you do or what you have, in terms of possessions or position. Jesus’ authority did not come from having a high position in some hierarchy. It came from who he was as a person. He had a natural authority. He had total confidence. No threats or promises were required.
• Be gentle and unassuming. This is not a characteristic of leadership that the world expects. Yet it was right at the heart of Jesus’ leadership. The Greek word means considerate, unassuming. It is the opposite of aggressive or self-seeking.
• Avoid arrogance and ostentation. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. What a contrast to so many other leaders in history, secular and religious, who have travelled with pomp and ceremony and ostentatious entourages. Jesus’ mode of transport was a sign of great humility. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance, which can so easily creep into human leadership.
• Have the courage to confront. People sometimes think that gentleness and humility mean giving in in every situation, but Jesus was not afraid of confrontation. He did so with love, yet firmness. If I were to title his method of confrontation I would refer to it is “carefronting.” He entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers. One of the hardest aspects of leadership is to know the right moment for confrontation. Controlled conflict and confrontation are a necessary part of good leadership. Failure to confront is in itself a decision with consequences. Confrontation is never easy, but wisely applied; it is a necessary part of courageous leadership.
As you read each of the above, think of how leaders of families, companies and those across our great nation could benefit from these simple, yet life-changing characteristics. Perhaps you have fallen short and feel your past mistakes will define your future actions. It’s never too late to learn and change. Where there is a now, there is always a next. If we maximize the now, God will maximize the next.
I believe the depth of your past is an indication of the height of your future. Make a decision to lead like Jesus. Learn the characteristics of real leadership. Remember, it’s not how you start in life that matters, it’s how you finish. Finish your race strong!