A total of 27 people participated in this research study—17 females and 10 males—having 8 different religious persuasions, and ages ranging from pre-teen to early 90s. The research methodology included semi-structured interviews, drawings, and songs.
A total of 15 interviews were conducted with 17 people—4 were conducted in person, 4 were conducted over the telephone, and 7 were completed via electronic mail. The participants included 12 women and 5 men, having 6 different religious persuasions, and ages ranging from early 30s to mid-70s. Each participant was asked the following six questions:
Tell me about any writings that you have heard about or read on Jesus and His leadership.
How do these writings capture the essence of Jesus’ leadership?
How would you define Jesus’ leadership style?
What leadership characteristics/traits do you see in Jesus?
Which ones are the most important to you and why?
What do you think of Jesus as a leader?
Six different people were asked to illustrate, nonverbally, their understanding of Jesus as a leader by drawing a picture. The participants included 3 females and 3 males, having 3 different religious persuasions, and ages ranging from pre-teens to mid-50s.
In addition, four other people were asked to describe their perception of Jesus as a leader by selecting a hymn or song. The participants included 2 females and 2 males, having 4 different religious persuasions, and ages ranging from early 20s to early 90s.
How relevant is Jesus and His leadership in your own life? Before you answer this question, let’s make an agreement. For the next few minutes, why don’t you sit down here beside of me, under this large, shady sycamore tree, and relax. That’s it. Now, lean your head back on this cool chocolate bark, close your eyes, and let your mind drift back 2,000 years, while 27 individuals tell us their thoughts and stories about Jesus the Leader. And, after they are done, then you can decide how significance Jesus’ leadership is in your own life.
Here comes Jesus now. From the looks of His dusty clothes and worn sandals, He has been traveling for quite a while. Can you see the serenity in His sun-tanned face? His eyes sparkle like thousands of stars dancing in the night sky. There are so many people rushing up to Him. Look at all those women grabbing His arms and hands and the children tugging on His robe. I’m getting claustrophobic just watching the crowd swarm all over Him. Let’s stand up so we can see what is going on. Can you see Jesus talking with that man who has deformed, shriveled limbs? He is stooping over and touching him. Jesus just stood up and now He is pointing towards heaven. I can’t make out what He is saying, can you? Would you look at that; the crippled man just leaped up and he is dancing all around Jesus. Jesus healed him. Jesus Christ healed that crippled man. Surely, He is the Son of God. Jesus is looking right at us and He is smiling. Come on; let’s follow Jesus.
LEADERSHIP CHARACTERISTICS, TRAITS, AND QUALITIES
Thirty different characteristics were initially identified from the interviews, drawings, and songs, and were then merged into 15 traits. In order to represent the collective thoughts and views of the people involved in this project, the characteristics were next narrowed down to those that had been identified by over 50 percent of the total participants, resulting in five traits.
The findings below represent the five most important leadership qualities of Jesus Christ, as identified by 27 different Christians from all walks of life.
Compassion and Love
It came as no surprise that compassion was unanimously identified as the number one leadership trait of Jesus. A few moments ago, you and I witnessed His compassion when He healed the crippled man. I heard the word “compassion” repeated over and over again during the interviews. I also saw it expressed in many of the drawings, and read about it in the hymns that were selected. Jesus’ life was filled with compassion and love. Ellen White (1942) described this love in her powerful book, Education, when she wrote, “Christ came to the world with the accumulated love of eternity” (p. 76).
Why was compassion identified as a leadership trait? Steve’s answer was compelling:
How is compassion a leadership trait?….It’s just that you can’t do anything without it. Without love, we are nothing. Love and compassion must lead the way….My soul is drawn to the compassionate Jesus. He was the compassionate Friend, Brother, and Son to His earthly family, and now, He’s a compassionate Father to His children.
Louise explained it using five simple words, “Love was His motivating factor.” Many authors that have written about Jesus and His leadership also identified compassion as a central leadership quality of Jesus. In her riveting book, Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, author Laurie Beth Jones (1995), wrote these words:
When everything else is said and done, only love will last. Love is the infrastructure of everything and anything worthwhile….Jesus…summarized His teaching in one sentence: Love God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus could lead people because, quite simply, he loved them (pp. 255-256).
Elaborating on compassion as a leadership quality, Mike Murdock (1996), author of The Leadership Secrets of Jesus, emphasized the fact that Jesus felt what we felt and hurt when we hurt. “You will begin to succeed with your life,” he wrote, “when the hurt and problems of others begin to matter to you” (p. 146). In their inspirational book, The Leadership Lessons of Jesus, authors Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard (1997), also identified compassion as a leadership quality:
Enduring leadership, the kind that makes a positive, long-range difference, is always characterized by compassion. A compassionate leader cares about people....[and] seeks the greatest good for individuals, the group, and the mission—not an easy task. What may seem good for an individual may not be good for the group or the mission. A leader must exercise compassion in a thoughtful, prayerful way (pp. 33-34).
Carol believed love gave Jesus His power:
I believe you have to truly love others to lead…It was obvious that Jesus loved people. He told us to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is why Jesus Christ was such a powerful leader—He loved people.
George corroborated Carol’s belief by reading an excerpt from Ellen White’s (1962) book, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers:
Christ’ love for His children is as tender as it is strong. And it is stronger than death, for He died to purchase our salvation and to make us one with Him, mystically and eternally one. So strong is His love that it controls all His powers, and employs the vast resources of Heaven in doing His people good. It is without variableness or shadow of turning—the same yesterday, today, and forever. Although sin has existed for ages, trying to counteract this love and obstruct its flowing earthward, it still flows in rich currents to those for whom Christ died (p. 519).
In Merilyn’s opinion, concern for others defined Jesus’ compassion. “He truly cared for people. Everything He did while He was on earth could be defined by His genuine care and concern for others…He was not concerned about Himself.” Carol agreed and added:
He wanted only the best for others. Jesus put others before Himself. His life has had an impact on my life, which I want to pass on to my son. He is only two-years-old and I am already reading him Bible stories and telling Him about the selflessness of Jesus. I can never picture Jesus being angry or upset with the crowds of people that constantly surrounded Him day after day.
Ruby also described the concern that Jesus showed by putting others before Himself:
He is humble, and caring, and generous. Look at all the times He wanted to get some rest but the crowds found Him. He never turned them away and He healed them all. He sacrificed rest and quiet time in order to serve the people. He never ended the day until He had met the needs of all the people He came in contact with.
On one such occasion, Jesus and His disciples had gone to a quiet place in the desert to spend some time together, but people followed and found them. Instead of asking His followers to get rid of them, He “welcomed them, taught them…and healed as many as needed to be healed” (Luke 9:11, The Clear Word2). In describing the same scene, Matthew said that Jesus was “moved with compassion” and began healing the sick (Matt. 14:14).
Jeanette discussed the time when Christ fed over 5,000 people as an example of His compassion and concern for others. Briner and Pritchard (1997) believed that performing this miracle was a daring leadership move for Jesus. “Boldness builds leadership, but rashness destroys it. Discerning between the two is critical” (p. 153). They continued. “Jesus is the greatest and boldest of all leaders…When Jesus told the disciples to feed the 5,000, it was among His boldest leadership moves, but it wasn’t rash. He knew He could make it happen” (pp. 154-155). Can you imagine preparing and serving food for over 5,000 men, women, and children without any advanced planning? I was once involved in planning a banquet for 2,000 people. In addition to myself, two other full-time employees were specifically assigned to this event. Although preparations began nearly one year in advance, we still worked around the clock for three days before the function. Even if plenty of food had been available, feeding 5,000 people on the spot would still have been an amazing miracle. Christ demonstrated His organizational skills when He asked the people to sit in small groups of 50 (Luke 9:14). “For a leader, order is never merely an exercise of power, but a necessary part of preparation for service.…Order does not stifle creativity, but promotes it. It does not restrict freedom, but enhances it for the greatest number” (Briner & Pritchard, 1997, p. 157). First, Jesus took the fish and loaves, gave thanks, and asked a blessing for what they had. Then, the disciples distributed it to the people, and later, gathered up the leftovers. This miracle demonstrated Jesus’ power, compassion, and generosity towards others, as well as His dependence on and gratitude towards His Father. After Jesus dismissed the people and sent them home, “He climbed part way up a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:46) and thanked God for allowing His leadership to be successful.
The Gospels provide many illustrations of Jesus’ compassion. Matthew wrote, “Whenever He saw a group of people, His heart was moved with compassion” (Matt. 5:36). Frequently, His compassion was coupled with healing. Matthew recorded the time when Jesus responded to a Canaanite woman with “His normal kindness and compassion” and healed her daughter (Matt. 15:28), and also when, with “tender compassion,” Jesus healed two blind men (Matt. 20:34). Mark said that Jesus had compassion on the people that came to see Him (Mark 6:34). Luke described the scene when Jesus raised a widow’s son:
Jesus made His way to the little city of Nain, accompanied by His followers.…As He approached the city gate, a funeral procession was on its way out. A widow’s only son had died and a large crowd…was following the men carrying the body. Jesus stepped aside to let them by, and as the weeping mother passed, His heart went out in compassion for her. As she looked up at Him, He said, “Don’t cry.” Then He stopped the procession, walked over to the litter on which the body lay, touched it and said, “Young man, I am telling you, Get up!” The young man opened his eyes, sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus presented him to his mother (Luke 7:11-15).
John recorded Jesus’ love and compassion for Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, when He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).
The Gospels also describe the people that Jesus loved. Jones (1995) was fascinated that Jesus loved the rich young ruler even as he walked away. “He did not withdraw His love because the young man did not meet his quota or jump on the bandwagon. This was one man who walked away and yet Jesus still loved him” (p. 282). Matthew portrayed Jesus as a mother hen when he wrote that Jesus cared for people and longed to protect them “just as a mother hen protects her chicks and covers them with her wings” (Matt 23:37). John also wrote about His love for human beings. On Thursday evening, right before the Last Supper, “Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. Having loved His people all the years He was here, He continued to love them to the very end” (John 13:1).
Dennis believed that Jesus “recognized the importance of love in His leadership and ministry.” Luke described it this way: “Just as the Father sent me and I feed on Him and on His love for me, so the man who feeds on Me and on My love for him will live because of Me” (John 6:57). Jesus also expressed the importance of love to others. “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul, and all your mind…You should love and value your neighbor as much as you love and value yourself (Matt. 22:37, 39). Charles Manz (1999), author of The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus, discussed his understanding of loving others. “Jesus did indeed advocate the Golden Rule, but He went even further. He suggested that we should treat people well, as we would like to be treated, even when they don’t deserve it, and even when they act in ways that are harmful to us” (p. 75). “Loving others is simply recognizing them as being valuable,” Marcia explained. She recalled a time when she learned how to treat another person with love when, deep down, she really did not want to:
I will never forget Beth. She and I went to the same elementary school together. She hung out with all of the popular girls. Most of the time, Beth and her click didn’t even talk with me. They could be so mean to me and would make fun of me. I wore big, dorky glasses then and I would hear them talk about how ugly I was in the bathroom or in the classroom. I just wanted to die. Well, one day, Beth came up to me at recess with tears rolling down her face and asked if she could talk to me privately. My first reaction was to laugh in her face and walk away, but then I thought about what my mom and dad would do. They always told me to be nice to others, even if they weren’t nice to me. “If in doubt,” they would say, “remember what happened to Jesus.” After thinking about what my parents would do, Beth and I walked over to a picnic table on the edge of the playground and talked until recess was over. Her brother had just been in a serious accident and her so-called friends were mad at her and wouldn’t talk to her. Well, after our talk, we ate lunch together and have been friends ever since. I learned a lot that day. I learned that everyone is a human being and deserves to be treated as somebody, even if they really don’t deserve it.
Joy pondered the thought of what would have happened to the human race if Jesus had decided to throw His hands up and walk away because of the way people treated Him:
I can’t even comprehend the love that Jesus had for us. What if Jesus got fed up with the way people treated Him? Have you ever thought about that? I shudder to think of what would have happened to all of us. We wouldn’t have any hope whatsoever. He sure wasn’t treated the way He should have been. But He was faithful to us and that made all the difference….If it weren’t for His faithfulness, Jesus would not have gone to the cross to redeem and reconcile us back to the Father. For me, His faithfulness is the basis of my relationships with God, husband, family, and friends.
Cheri concurred and expressed her strong belief in Christ’s faithfulness. “Jesus never gives up on us.…You can count on Him to be faithful to His word—faithful all the way to the cross.” Shortly before He was nailed to that splintered and bloody wood, Jesus again expressed His love and its significance. “I have loved you,” He told the disciples, “just as deeply as the Father has loved me. Hold on to my love. If you do what I ask you to do, you will rest in my love just as I have done what my Father asked me to do and rest in His love” (John 15:9-10).
Steve summarized Jesus’ compassion and love with these words, “Jesus shared, through His parables and life, how to live and love—simple and honest, open and genuine…Jesus’ love and compassion have a destination—our hearts and minds.” Ruby summarized His love eloquently. “Love was both the beginning and end for Jesus. After the healings, the acceptance of sinners, the feeding of the hungry, and all the other acts of love He performed, Jesus went to the cross.”
Power & Authority
Power and authority was the second most identified leadership quality of Jesus. Steve acknowledged His supremacy and its source:
Jesus was both powerful and authoritative while He walked the face of this earth so many years ago, as well as today, as He both judges and defends us in the Heavenly court. He received His power from His Father because He submitted to His Father’s will. We, too, must submit our wills to Jesus, our Mediator. When we stop and think about His power and authority, the awesome reality of who He is should cause our chins to drop and our knees to buckle.
Art also stated that God was the source of Jesus’ power:
The source of His authority came from His Father. This is where He obtained the power to teach, the power to love, and the power to change lives. Because of this complete reliance on God, He has power to bring anything about.
Jesus, Himself, acknowledged that He came to earth to do His Father’s will.
The Son does nothing on His own, but everything He does is according to the Father’s will and only what the Father Himself would do. The Father loves the Son and shows Him what to do. Soon He will show the Son even greater things to do and you will be amazed. Whatever the Father can do, the Son can do, even raising the dead…Just as the Father is the Source of all life, so He has allowed the Son to use His life-giving power (John 5:19-21, 26).
Jesus told His disciples He was here to do His Father’s will. “I came down from heaven, not to exert My authority, but to carry out the will of the One who sent me” (John 6:38). Patterson Ellis (1994) analyzed and contrasted Jesus’ leadership style with other significant leaders in Christian history and concluded that “Jesus consistently saw His life as having authority from God. Therefore, He was secure. He did not defend Himself or control others. He constantly tried to bring people into a proper relationship with God and each other” (p. 287).
Briner and Pritchard (1997) began the chapter entitled, Authority, The Stuff of Leadership, with an explanation of authority:
Leadership is largely about authority—acquiring it, using it, and investing it in others. Leadership is not about issuing directives…Leaders should attempt to replicate themselves, pulling followers along so that they can…act on their own to advance the cause (pp. 76-77).
Ruby also linked Jesus’ power with others. “He used His power to help people. He taught, He preached, He healed, He changed lives.” Briner and Pritchard (1997) added:
He primarily used His authority as an investment in those around Him, teaching and inspiring them to act in His name, for His sake. That this was brilliant leadership is authenticated every day as millions around the world continue to act in His name and for His sake (p. 77).
During our interview, Ted exclaimed, “How would I describe Jesus’ power? It was a combination of both love and passion. His power was just another way of saying and showing His love for the people.” Louise also connected Jesus’ power with His love. “His power and authority was based on His love when He was here on earth.” Jeanette focused on His dedication to each person:
His power was based on His love and concern for others. He was dedicated to each individual…He was dedicated to bringing each one of us into a close relationship with Him and His Father. We can count on one thing in this world. Jesus has promised that He will return for us in the clouds of heaven, yet again, having full power and authority.
Anne also connected Jesus’ love with His power. “He still leads today by love and compassion, but…none of us can escape His supreme power.”
George said you could learn a lot about a leader based on how he exercised his authority. “Some leaders just let their power and authority go straight to their heads. This is the beginning of the end for them. Jesus never abused His power. He used it for others—to help them believe.” Briner and Prichard (1997) also acknowledged that Jesus did not abuse His power. “Some [leaders]…exercise authority they have not earned and do not have….Some leaders hold their authority too closely….Some delegate too broadly….Jesus appropriately exercised the authority He had….yet, He also recognized the authority of His Father” (pp. 135-136). Joy said she focuses on Jesus whenever she is tempted to take advantage of her authority:
I am tempted, in my job at times, to abuse my authority to make certain things happen in certain ways, at certain times…However, Jesus’ example reminds me that this is not real authority and it makes me find more appropriate ways to accomplish the task.
Marcia addressed Jesus’ willingness to share His power and authority. “He worked with them [disciples] and trained them so that they could help Him with His mission. He was ready, willing, and able to pass on His power to them.” In other words, Jesus grew His power. Briner and Pritchard (1997) wrote that authority grows “only if it is first given away, strategically delegated to competent followers” (p. 137). Beausay (1997), author of the book, The Leadership Genius of Jesus, explained how Jesus developed His power in His disciples:
He faced many difficult training challenges. He taught them all on the job with no manuals, no official work hours, and no tight supervision….But, Jesus succeeded in building the group into leaders….Jesus trusted…and encouraged them constantly….He specifically empowered them to cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach. Were they qualified, certified, and capable of handling those rather powerful things? Not at first. But knowing that mistakes would be common, Jesus patiently guided them. He corrected their thinking when they needed it and let them feel the power He put at their disposal (p. 79).
The Gospels confirm that Jesus shared His power with His twelve disciples (Matt. 10:1) and gave them “power to heal all kinds of diseases, including authority over demons” (Luke 9:1). George said that Jesus was eager to share with others, in addition to His disciples. “Jesus was willing to share His power with anyone who would believe in Him.” Ruby concurred, but noted that many did not believe:
It is so sad that many would not accept and believe in Him, even though He showed them His power by healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising people from the dead. But, it wasn’t the masses that did not believe, it was the Jewish leaders that denied who He really was.
When referencing this unbelief, Jesus exclaimed, “What an unbelieving generation! How much longer do I have to be with you to show you the power of God?” (Mark 9:19).
There is a great deal recorded about Christ’s power and authority in the Gospels. “The people…marveled at His kindly manner…and at the gentle authority in the tone of His voice” (Luke 4:32). People were amazed at His wisdom and power (Matt. 13:54) and were “so awestruck by His power that they were too afraid to ask Him about anything” (Luke 9:45). The Gospels also wrote about His power to heal. “The power of the Lord came upon Jesus to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17). In describing the time that Jesus healed a paralytic, Mark recorded these words spoken by Jesus: “To help you understand that I have power to forgive sins, I will show you that I also have power to heal” (Mark 2:10). After Christ had cast out a demon from a man, the people were mesmerized because they had never seen anything like this before and exclaimed, “His authority is amazing” (Mark 1:27-28). The disciples were even awed at His power. “What kind of power does He have that even the wind and the waves obey Him?” (Mark 4:41). Judas was so devastated when Jesus did not use His power to free Himself that “he rushed up to the high priest to return the thirty pieces of silver and said, ‘I’m the criminal! I’ve done a terrible thing’….Then Judas threw the money down…and went out and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:3-5).
Jesus’ prayer life was also identified by over one-half of the participants as another significant leadership quality. Briner and Pritchard (1998) also identified prayer as a significant component of His leadership. In their book, More Leadership Lessons of Jesus, they wrote: “To consider the leadership lessons of Jesus and not to include the importance of prayer would be unthinkable” (p. 117) because “prayer is where the battles of life are won and lost” (1997, p. 31). Marcia believed that prayer was the one unique element of Jesus’ leadership and is still what separates Christian leaders from all other types of leadership:
I’ve spent a great deal of time reading and studying about Jesus the Leader. I’ve come to the conclusion that prayer was the distinctive ingredient of His leadership and the source of His power and strength. Think about how leaders differ. The only factor that is unique is prayer. And, prayer is still what separates Christian leadership today. God is the boss of Christian leaders and they turn to Him, just as Jesus did, to seek His guidance, strength, and direction.
Ruby explained the role that prayer played in Jesus’ life. “Prayer was a major part of His life and to Him as a leader. Jesus met with His Father daily, usually for hours. Nothing could interrupt this time. He continually asked His Father for guidance.” Merilyn said that prayer was His life source. “He disciplined Himself to spend time in privacy to pray and commune with God. It was important because it was His source of power, love, and authority.” Briner and Pritchard (1997) agreed. “Again and again He gets alone with His Father and pours out His heart in prayer. Everything else that happens…flows directly from His time alone with God” (p. 31). George connected the significance of Jesus’ prayer life to ours today:
Have you ever stopped and really thought about the amount of time that Christ spent alone in prayer with God and the significance of that? What a powerful message He gave us. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to spend that must time with His Father, and received His power and was rejuvenated only through prayer, then how much more time do we, as frail human beings, need to spend with Him?
Marcia believed that both prayer and rest gave Jesus a balanced life. “He took time for prayer and rest. I tend to be a workaholic so I pray and ask God to teach me how to live a balanced life and to take time to rest and rejuvenate myself.” Murdock (1996) also wrote about this balanced approach. “Jesus was an action man, a people person. He produced. He healed. He preached and taught. He walked among the people. But He also knew the necessity of rest and relaxation” (pp. 28-29). “Let’s go find an isolated spot in the wilderness where we can be alone to talk and get some rest,” Jesus said to His disciples on numerous occasions (Mark 6:31). Murdock (1996) described a typical day in the life of Jesus:
Every day Jesus faced hundreds of the sick and afflicted who screamed for His attention. Many were demon possessed. Mothers reached for Him. Fathers asked Him to pray for their children. Children did not want to leave His presence. But Jesus separated Himself to receive. He knew He could only give away that which He possessed. Work time is giving. Rest time is receiving. You must have both….Jesus understood the balance of rest and work, which is probably why He was able to accomplish so much in three and one-half years (p. 29).
Listen to some of the first-hand accounts recorded by His disciples about the amount of time Jesus spent in nature and alone with God. “To find peace, He went down and sat by the lake” (Matt. 13:1). He asked the disciples to “take Him across the lake so He could be alone for a while” (Matt. 14:13). “He climbed a little hill and sat down to rest a while” (Matt. 15:29). Jesus “went up into the hills to a secluded place to talk with His Father” (Mark 1:35). “After the people and the disciples were gone, He climbed part way up a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:46). “Jesus chose Peter, James, and John to go with Him to the top of a mountain to be alone” (Mark 9:2) “Jesus and His disciples went into the hill country to find a quiet place to be alone and pray. Jesus prayed all night, communing with His Father until His energy was renewed and He felt refreshed” (Luke 6:12). “Jesus led them to a quiet place in the desert...to be alone” (Luke 9:10). He went up “to one of the nearby mountains to be alone and to pray” (Luke 9:28). “He climbed a nearby hill to be alone and pray” (John 6:15).
Jesus never broke a date with God, even if meant losing sleep. “After a few hours of sleep, Jesus made His way out of town before daybreak to an isolated spot where He could be alone to pray” (Luke 4:42). Whenever Carol and her son get up early and walk around their backyard, she likes to tell him about Jesus getting up early to talk with His Father:
One of my favorite stories I like to tell my son…is about Jesus getting up…to go see His Daddy. I can imagine Jesus getting up early in the morning, probably tired from getting only a couple hours of sleep, but yet excited because He is going to talk with His best friend and His Father—the highlight of His day. I can see Him making His way up a hill and stumbling on a rock in the pathway because it is still dark. Everything is still blanketed in silence and He has time to think and get His head clear as He makes His way up the dusty dirt road. I know Jesus was very organized. I imagine Him running through the day’s agenda as He walks along by Himself. As He kneels down on the damp ground, He doesn’t worry about His robe getting wet from the morning dew; the only thing on His mind is to pour out His heart to God. [My son] always smiles when I tell him that story and then we go back inside and he will get down on his knees to say a prayer.
Charisma was another top leadership quality identified in this study. Luke described Jesus’ charismatic appeal as a burning sensation. “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us…and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32, KJV). The paraphrased version of the Bible described this burning in these words: “their hearts…felt strangely warm.”
Many of the people I interviewed described Jesus’ charisma in terms of His “incredible drawing power,” to use Dennis’ exact words. “People were drawn to Him,” he said, “and to His cause. He was truly a charismatic leader.” Matthew wrote about the crowds that followed Jesus. “Jesus had no quiet time because huge crowds followed Him wherever He went” (Matt. 8:18). Merilyn said that people flocked to Jesus:
A sign of a great and inspirational leader is that he has a following and Jesus had quite a following. There were always crowds around Him. People flocked to hear Him speak. People did not want to miss out on anything He might say or do. I think He drew people to Him because He was accessible and because He helped people and gave them what they needed.
George also associated Jesus’ charisma with His drawing power:
When you first start working in an organization, it doesn’t take long to figure out who the leaders are. It’s like that with Christ…He was charismatic. He captures your attention and your heart. People were drawn to Him and wanted to be around Him…They didn’t even understand what He was saying…but they still wanted to be close to Him and listen to Him talk.
Mark talked about the fact that people could not always comprehend what Jesus was saying. “The common people, even though they didn’t understand everything Jesus said, gladly listened to Him” (Mark 12:37). Louise also discussed Jesus’ drawing power:
He developed friendships…When you are a leader…you have to distance yourself from your people, but Christ didn’t do that. He made friends and drew people to Him. When you have the ability to draw people to you and gain their confidence, they will work harder for you and have a greater respect for you.
Marcia agreed with Louise and used her former boss as an example:
I had one boss in particular that was amazing. Everyone was drawn to him and he treated everyone with respect and concern. He genuinely cared about his employees. The result? We, in turn, respected him and worked extremely hard for him. This is exactly the way Jesus was. He had a magnetic personality. He truly cared about people and treated everyone with respect. I think this was part of His drawing power.
Anne also associated Jesus’ charismatic personality with His drawing power:
Jesus drew people by His personality, not because of who He was. He was captivating and interesting and charismatic. He genuinely cared about everyone and He still does. He gently calls us to Him, using His love and concern. Now, this is truly a great and charismatic leader.
Jeanette agreed with Anne. “He compels none to follow….He draws us with His love.”
Humility was the fifth most identified leadership characteristic of Jesus. There is no doubt that Jesus was a humble servant. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest in your souls” (Matt. 11:29, KJV). Jesus identified humility as the source of happiness. “One day when Jesus saw the crowds following, He went out of town to a hillside where He sat down, surrounded by His disciples and the people….’Happiness,’ He said, ‘comes from having a humble attitude’ “ (Matt. 5:1-3). Florence agreed and stated that humility was an important trait that everyone should possess. “We all need humility…I cannot even think of Jesus without thinking of humility. He lived it. He spoke of it. He taught about it.” Anne concurred and added that humility allowed each one of us to achieve the very best in life:
Humility is a must in our lives. We cannot reach our potential until we have humility within us, but it sure doesn’t come naturally. We are all selfish human beings. The only way we can learn selflessness—humility—is through copying the life of Jesus. He lived it while He was here on earth and He showed it when He served others…Jesus did not choose to be a front-page celebrity or a widely known figure, only to be humble…He never became too full of Himself or spoke of His self-importance. It was His humbleness that made Him a great leader.
Jesus defined greatness as serving others:
If you want to be great, then go and help your neighbor and other people in need. Be kind to them and help them in every way you can. If you put yourself first, you will be humbled, but if you put others first, you will be honored (Matt. 23:11-12).
Manz (1999) linked Jesus’ definition of greatness and service with these words:
Jesus sends a clear message that we should not exaggerate our sense of superiority, that we should not become too caught up in our own importance.…Be humble and don’t be a conceited self-advocate; be a servant and strive to put others first—this is the path to greatness…The philosophy He advocated—humility, service, forgiveness—can lead to the kinds of respect and love from others that many view as the real signs of “greatness” (p. 20).
Grace connected Jesus’ humility with His mission:
We must follow the way Jesus lived. He did not want any personal glory. In fact, He tried to tell everyone He healed to stay quiet and not tell anyone. Jesus proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that humility goes far in recruiting people to your cause.
Carol recalled some of the lessons she learned from a former boss:
I learned so much about humility from my former boss, Linda. She was a class act and the most humble person I have ever met. She truly trained others to be the best that they could be and built them up. I don’t ever remember her taking credit for any of the many accomplishments she was responsible for. She would always give her employees the credit for special projects, new ideas, and cost-saving suggestions. I’ll never forget the time that she helped me prepare a speech I was giving to a large group of medical professionals. Linda spent hours helping me prepare this speech and she worked with me on weekends and late into the night several times. Well, the day came for the meeting. I got lost and arrived late. I was so shaken up by the time I started my speech, I couldn’t remember my lines and I was totally bombing. Linda stood up and jumped in and it all turned out as though we had planned it. The speech turned in to more of a dialogue between the two of us and we got a standing ovation at the end! And, if that wasn’t enough, the following day when her boss congratulated her on our meeting and what a great job we had done, she told him that it was all my doings. I know this because my secretary overhead their conversation. I will never, ever forget her humility. She was a great person and a great leader because of it. And, because of her, I strive every day to follow in her footsteps and, more importantly, in His footsteps.
Victoria summed up humility with these words.
The one [leadership trait] that speaks volumes to me and the one I come up against all the time is humility. I think He was a very humble leader…This is a quote that I actually created myself because when I was thinking about leadership, I wanted to come up with something that truly, to me, was the essence of what true leadership is… I wanted to shadow after Jesus’ leadership and this is what I came up with: “The grace of great things is the humility we feel when we truly experience another’s soul because they felt free and safe to share and we felt love enough to embrace the gift.” That, to me, is the essence of leadership.