You often hear people talk about how we need to lead like Jesus. I completely agree.
But what many people usually seem to mean by this is simply that we need to be extra nice. Not be too blunt or harsh. Or too demanding. Or put people in situations that overly stretch them.
In other words, leading like Jesus means leading like Mr. Rogers.
I don’t know if you’ve read the gospels, but that’s not how Jesus led. I recently did a quick read-through of Mark and noticed a trend in Jesus’ leadership:
Jesus was a tough, demanding leader to follow. He was always stirring something up, pushing the disciples past their limits, even coming across rude and reckless sometimes.
I mean, think about the fact that for the disciples’ first mission in Mark 6, Jesus he tells them to teach and cast out demons, even though there’s no indication they had ever done it. And then He doesn’t even equip them very well: they only get a staff. No bread, no bag, no money. That’s like your pastor coming up to you and saying “I want you to build me a new campus in 30 days. You’ve got no money, no volunteers to start with. No place to meet yet. I’m preaching there live the first weekend it’s open. Good luck.”
Or how about all the times when the disciples would say stupid things, ask dumb questions, or they just didn’t get it. And Jesus, instead of being sweet with them, would just call them out. Like in Mark 7 when the disciples don’t understand a parable, and Jesus replies, “are you so dull?”
What about in Mark 1:16-20 when Jesus tells Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their livelihood to follow Him. Or Mark 1:40-42 when Jesus touches a leper in front of the disciples, which would have been like injecting yourself with AIDS in our day. Or Mark 2:13-17 when Jesus goes to a party with sinners and the disciples have to do PR control with the Pharisees.
That’s just scratching the surface in Mark. And I didn’t even get to the other gospels.
Don’t get me wrong, leading like Jesus doesn’t mean you have to lead like a jerk. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying that Jesus knew some things about leadership we all need to learn.
Leadership isn’t letting people stay comfortable. Leadership isn’t being easy on your team. Leadership isn’t speaking in nice generalities and letting crap go by without calling people on it. Leadership isn’t about not putting your people in tough circumstances where they’re going to have to think on their feet.
Leadership isn’t about those things because then you’re not actually leading your people anywhere but where they’ve always been. You’re letting their potential remain dormant. And you’re not serving them. You’re setting them up for failure. Or even worse, successful mediocrity.
Don’t be afraid to expect the best from your people. And don’t be afraid to put them in difficult situations that are going to bring the best out of them.
In short, don’t lead like Mr. Rogers. Lead like Jesus.