As the previous post indicates, I am planning on teaching a course this fall on “The leadership principles of Jesus.” The focus of the course will be a study of the Gospel of Mark, taking particular notice of how Jesus related to people. Since Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as a servant, it will no doubt bring out the quality of servant leadership.
As part of my research and preparation this summer, I have been reading several books that claim to be on the subject. But as is often true, not all books are created equal.
C. Gene Wilkes wrote Jesus on leadership. Since the subtitle of the book is “Discovering the secrets of servant leadership from the life of Christ,” he places a particular emphasis on that type of leadership. In Wilkes’ study of the gospel, he came up with seven timeless principles for leadership:
- Jesus humbled himself and allowed God to exalt him.
- Jesus followed his Father’s will rather than sought a position.
- Jesus defined greatness as being a servant and being first as becoming a slave.
- Jesus risked serving others because he trusted that he was God’s son.
- Jesus left his place at the head table to serve the needs of others.
- Jesus shared responsibility and authority with those he called to lead.
- Jesus built a team to carry out a worldwide mission.
While the book was helpful, it reminded me a bit of the adage, “If all you have in your hand is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail.” He uses the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet as the model for servant leadership. While it is certainly true, it felt like he was forcing some of his principles to fit into that model rather than letting them stand on their own.
Charles C. Manz wrote The leadership wisdom of Jesus: Practical lessons for today. The book is aimed at those who are concerned with moral and humanitarian issues in work and human relationships. This was, by far, the least helpful of all the books I read. I was disappointed because it did not live up to the title. Rather than presenting how Jesus led people, it is a collection of business principles with a Scripture verse tacked on. He seems to treat the Scriptures as merely a collection of wise teachings. While the author quoted Scripture at the beginning of each chapter, he seemed to use the verse or passage as a launching point for what he wanted to talk about. I felt like he was prooftexting–using a Bible verse to back up his main point.
Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard wrote The leadership lessons of Jesus: A timeless model for today’s leaders. Of the books I read, I found this one to be the most helpful. Rather than being an in-depth study of the topic, the authors present 75 principles or lessons taken from chapters 1-10 of the Gospel of Mark. Most of the lessons are 1-2 pages in length. Each principle is followed by a story or idea about how to apply it in daily life. The book is clear, concise, easily read, and very practical.