Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

What was Jesus' Leadership Style?

  • Megan Pacheco Chief Learning Officer, Lead Like Jesus
  • Updated Mar 15, 2018
What was Jesus' Leadership Style?

Leadership is a thriving business. It has been for decades, despite its very meager return on investment. Over 300,000 books have been written on leadership, but where are all the great leaders? 

A startling 86% of global respondents to the Survey on the Global Agenda agree that we have a worldwide leadership crisis. A poll conducted by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University shows that 70% of Americans blame leadership crisis as a factor in the national economic decline. Why, despite such congestion of leadership resources, tools, trainings and simulcasts, do we continue to see a decline in the quality of leaders? 

Flavor of the Month Leadership

Those who’ve had multiple jobs and served under multiple bosses can probably recite a litany of leadership styles they’ve been exposed to over the years.

It seems like every year there’s a “new” leadership trend that makes its way into the market, claiming that this time around it’s the real deal! Social media gets flooded with pictures of the next cool leadership book someone’s reading that promises big changes to come. Organizations jump on the bandwagon, buy the book, conduct vigorous discussions during “lunch and learn” and then . . . not much happens and hopes are shattered—until the next leadership chart-buster arrives on the scene! And all is right with the world again!

I know this firsthand. Been there, done that, and I can attest to how ineffective and counterproductive this approach is.

There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

So what’s the “new” trend in leadership emerging right now? According to Fast Company’s article by Mark Lukens, it’s the “Letting It Go” style of leadership. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? 

The premise of this new leadership trend is based on this quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Personally I have nothing against the trend. The thing is, though, it’s really not new. 

Letting It Go leadership has been around since creation (if we only paid attention), and Jesus modeled it perfectly. 

In his article, Lukens says that if leaders let go of control, performance and the past, they will set themselves up for a much brighter future. So let’s look at Jesus, the greatest leader role model of all time, in the light of this “new” Letting It Go leadership idea.

Letting Go of Control, Position and Power 

There is no better example of Letting It Go leadership than Jesus. From letting go of safety and security, comfort and glory, Jesus’ entire 33 years on earth were all about letting go. 

The One who created the heavens and the earth, the One who had dominion over all, chose to let go and confine Himself to a human body in order to accomplish His Father’s ultimate objective—the redemption of mankind.

Jesus’ final “letting go” act was transferring the ownership and fulfillment of His Father’s mission to a handful of fallen men. He knew they would struggle, make mistakes, and deal with conflict and disappointments along the way. He could have done it all perfectly with no additional help, but He chose to let go and let Peter, Paul, Matthew and the others run with the plan. 

When taunted by one of the criminals hanging crucified by His side, “Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" Jesus chose to let go of His ultimate power to save Himself from physical and spiritual anguish and endured the Cross set before Him. He did this because He had a clear understanding of what His end goal was!

Letting Go of Performance 

In order to succeed in His mission, Jesus had to let go of performance—the temptation to work for the applause of multiple audiences with multiple, competing agendas.

That list included Pharisees, political leaders of the day, needy crowds, Jesus’ own family, and His friends and teammates. Everyone wanted something different. It would have been so like us for Jesus to try and pander to all of their unique needs, demands and expectations, while constantly feeling exhausted and overwhelmed without one clear purpose. 

No, in the midst of all the competing voices, Jesus kept His Father’s agenda as a priority. Jesus was not interested in making everyone around Him happy. He let go of the need for performance approval and instead sought only the approval of His Father. 

Unlike Jesus, many of today’s leaders have become approval addicts. Because approval creates dependence, it becomes something we crave more and more, just like caffeine or sugar. Where one doughnut used to be enough, now it takes half a dozen to satisfy the craving!

According to an article by Coaching Positive Performance, approval seekers will usually display one or more of these behaviors:

1. Changing or softening your position because someone appears to disapprove

2. Paying insincere compliments to gain approval

3. Feeling upset, worried, or insulted when someone disagrees with you

4. Expressing agreement (verbally or nonverbally) when you do not agree

5. Doing something you do not want to do because you are afraid to say no

6. Failing to complain when you have received poor service or a deficient product

7. Spreading bad news and gossip to gain attention

8. Asking permission when it is not required

9. Consistently apologizing for your words and deeds whether others have expressed disapproval or not (e.g., “I’m sorry but…”)

10. Pretending to be knowledgeable or an authority on a subject because you are afraid to admit that there is something you do not know.

11. Attempting to coax people into paying you compliments and/or getting upset when they fail to do so.

12. Behaving in a nonconforming manner in order to draw attention to yourself

13. Engaging in behaviors that are contrary to your identity and purpose, or that conflict with your core beliefs, to gain the approval of someone else

Letting Go and Embracing God’s Leadership Model 

God’s model, value system and framework for leadership have been around for ages. His Word is full of leader and influencer “case studies,” of how-tos and how-not-tos. God has defined for us concepts such as success, life purpose, financial principles for managing, earning, borrowing, saving, investing and giving and so much more. Yet, somehow, despite the wealth of wisdom and guidance in His Word, and despite the fact that Jesus Himself modeled leadership so well, we still tend to reach for the next flavor-of-the-month leadership hot-seller. 

Can you imagine how different our faith-led businesses, faith-based organizations and even churches would look if we decided today that the only leadership model we will apply and follow is the blueprint Jesus so excellently modeled for us? 

Allow me to leave you by asking one final question: What should you let go of in order to become a leader who leads like Jesus?

Megan Pacheco is a Chief Learning Office for Lead Like Jesus. Megan spent over 13 years working in the faith-based sector and has several years of experience in product development, marketing, finances and leadership. She is passionate about using her God-given talents to advance the cause of Christ. Megan's content on issues like personal finances, leadership, money and marriage and raising children has been published by multiple sources including:  More Living, Yahoo Finance, AllParenting, FoxBusiness, DailyFinance, and Crosswalk. Megan is married to David, and they have two sons, Joshua and Daniel.

Publication date: January 26, 2016