Pure leadership The pure leadership of Jesus Christ

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The PURE Leadership of Jesus Christ

By Brenda G. Palmer

Presented to: Dr. Shirley Freed

Andrews University

EDRM605 Qualitative Research Methods

August 13, 2001


Abstract 4

Research Problem and Questions 4

Background 5

Literature Review 6

Leadership Traits and Models 6

Current Leadership Research 9

Jesus and Spiritual Leadership Research 11

Writings on Jesus and Leadership 12

Methodology 12

Findings 13

Leadership Characteristics, Traits, and Qualities 14

Leadership Styles 29

Drawings 39

Songs 44

Discussion 45

Summary 50

Future Research 51

References 52

Footnotes 58


(For Tabbed Sections)



Literature Review

Theme Summary

Analysis by Theme

Analysis by Religion

Analysis by Age Group

Analysis by Gender

Background Information

Interviews by Leadership Trait

Interviews by Leadership Style

Interviews by Other

Coding Schematic

Interview Transcripts

Field Notes & Observations


The purpose of this study was to examine the leadership of Jesus Christ, as understood by the average Christian, through interviews, drawings, and songs. The leadership traits and styles identified by the participants are compared with current leadership theories. The findings uncover several unique leadership qualities, which distinguish Jesus from all other leaders, and indicate that His leadership style cannot be totally explained within the framework of one particular leadership model. Accordingly, a new model, PURE Leadership, describing Jesus’ distinctive leadership style is proposed. Spiritual development implications are discussed.


There has been an enormous amount of literature written about the leadership of Jesus Christ. Log on to Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and you can locate nearly 50 books, or conduct a search on the Word Wide Web using the words “Jesus and leader” and you will find over 250,000 hits. Clearly, information is not wanting, so what could I possibly hope to add to this topic? Permit me to answer this question with two additional questions. Although these books, articles, writings, and websites explain the authors’ views about Jesus’ leadership, do they represent the average Christian’s personal understanding, as well? Although the authors offer numerous leadership theories to expound Jesus’ style, are they the same ones that a typical Christian would choose? Finding the answers to these questions is why I feel compelled to add to the mammoth amount of writings currently gathering dust on the bookshelves and floating around in cyberspace.

The purpose of this study was to examine the unique leadership of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of a typical Christian, and to find answers to the following questions: How do Christians view Jesus’ leadership? Is His leadership having any impact in the lives of Christians today? Does His leadership have any relevance in this postmodern era?

The findings are significant to all us—Christians, students, administrators, teachers, preachers, and evangelists. Applying the results will allow us to love better, learn better, manage better, educate better, and share the Good News better by specifically tailoring it to reach the people living in this secular, postmodern, and relativistic society. The findings will help us discover whether we, as Christians, are allowing Jesus to lead in every part of our lives, because the bottom line, dear friends, is this: If Jesus is not dwelling within us; if we do not love Him with all of our hearts, and minds, and strength; if we do not love our fellow man; and if we are not representing Christ in every aspect of our lives, then Jesus is not our leader, and we are not His followers. Period.


I first became interested in leadership when I was a little girl growing up in the country and surrounded by miles of open fields, mountains, fruit trees, and animals. While Mom was teaching me how to cook, clean, and sew, I would close my eyes and let my mind carry me away to the outdoors, where I was helping Daddy “work the honey bees.” I would hurriedly complete my chores and then dash next door to be with Dad. I spent many hours by his side, helping him, watching him, and jotting down countless mental notes as he answered my myriad of questions about running a honey company. I dreamed of the day when I would be President and CEO of my very own company, just like Dad. When I finally started climbing the corporate ladder, I saw prominent differences between the way my father, a Christian leader, ran his business and made decisions, as compared to the secular leaders who were grooming me.

I will never forget Bill1, a gentle, brilliant, white-haired, pipe-smoking, middle-aged, Christian president of a national non-profit membership organization, who hired me as the office manager many years ago. I was quite disillusioned when I learned that he took off his Christianity every morning and hung it in the coat closet before entering the office. One hot and humid summer evening, several employees, including Bill and I, were working late to finalize budget materials for the upcoming annual budget presentation to the board of directors. As I ran out the door to catch the last subway home, I overheard Bill tell Nancy, the company’s accountant, to delete several expenditures, totaling nearly $250,000, from the proposed budget. The finance committee had given us a mandate to develop a balanced budget and, no matter what changes were made, we kept winding up in the red. There was only one problem with Bill’s strategy; Bill had already committed the organization to these expenditures when he personally signed his name on the dotted line a few days earlier. I watched as he placed his hand on Nancy’s shoulder and assured her that he would take care of everything and not to worry. “Not to worry,” I screamed silently, “this man is planning to blatantly lie to the board. He can’t do that. He’s the president!” I had always looked up to Bill; after all, he was my leader. The next day Nancy informed me that Bill had no intention of canceling the services. He wanted us to remain silent and he would acquire the board’s approval in a couple of weeks—after next year’s budget had been approved. I was shocked and appalled, but I was also young, naïve, and scared, so I followed the directive and did not say a word. My conscience kept me awake for the next several nights until I finally mustered up enough courage to talk with Bill. I do not remember everything he told me, but I will never forget the last two sentences that rolled out of his mouth when I was leaving his office. “Being a Christian and running a company at the same time is like trying to mix water and oil,” he exclaimed. “One day you, too, will learn that you need many shades of gray crayons to color an organization and can throw away the black and white ones.”

Many years later, I was hired as the second-in-command for a nonprofit agency. It was déjà vu all over again. The president was a gentle, brilliant, pipe-smoking, middle-aged, Christian man, who was also a respected leader in the community, and in his church. There were only two separating features between my current boss and my former boss—his name was Warren, not Bill, and his hair color was blond, not white. I was astounded when I learned about Warren’s unethical, shady, good-old-boy, business connections. In fact, some of his dealings were so outrageous that even my capitalistic, liberal colleagues considered them to be immoral.

For years, I have been asking myself, as a Christian and a leader, where and how does Christ fit into our professional affairs? Why do so many professed Christians separate Jesus from their intellectual lives and divorce Him from their careers? Why do we tend to divide the sacred and secular parts of our lives as though we are two different people? Shouldn’t we mold the two together and form a pure and holistic life, one where Christ is leading in every aspect? Thus, began my journey to learn more about Jesus the Leader. As I began this research project, I taped my “wonderment” on the wall beside my computer, along with these words: If Jesus were to log on to American On-Line and send me an e-mail, what would He tell me about His leadership?


Leadership Traits and Models

I first conducted a scholarly literature review on leadership traits, theories, and styles. Over the past several decades, a vast amount of research has been conducted in the field of leadership. The earliest approaches to understanding leaders and leadership emphasized the trait approach, which concentrated on identifying specific traits—characteristics and skills—that would consistently distinguish leaders from non-leaders. However, these studies produced insignificant and confusing conclusions (Hoy & Miskel, 2001). More recent trait studies have focused on the relationship between traits and effectiveness, incorporating both leadership characteristics and situations, and have yielded more consistent findings (Bass, 1990; Immegart, 1988; Schmidt & Hunter, 1992; Stogdill, 1981; Yukl 1981, 1998; as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001).

This “balanced” perspective of the trait theory has proven useful because particular traits do increase the probability that a leader will be effective. Hoy and Miskel (2001) classified these qualities using three categories: personality, motivation, and skills. According to Yukl (1998, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001) personality traits are tendencies to act in a particular manner. Although numerous personality traits have been connected with effective leadership, Hoy and Miskel (2001) singled out four that were particularly significant: integrity, self-confidence, stress-tolerance, and emotional maturity. Motivational traits facilitate the understanding of specific decisions and their level of success. Hoy and Miskel (2001) believed that, as a rule, highly motivated leaders were more effective than leaders having “low expectations, modest goals, and limited self-efficacy” (p. 397). Hoy and Miskel (2001) combined the results from numerous scholarly research (Fiedler, 1967; McClelland, 1985; Yukl, 1998, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001) and identified four motivational factors and two physical traits that were essential for leaders: task and interpersonal needs, power, achievement orientation, high expectations, energy, and activity level. Referencing Yukl’s work (1998, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001), Hoy and Miskel (2001) also identified four groups of skills that were associated with the effectiveness of leaders: technical, interpersonal, conceptual, and administrative.

Two other closely related leadership styles, contingency and situational, attempt to identify the “conditions or situational variables that modify the relationship among leader traits, behaviors, and performance criteria” (Hoy & Miskel, 2001, p. 403). Evidence exists to support the idea that effective leadership depends on the interaction of the situation and the leader’s behavior. Contingency and situational leadership theories identify which approach to use under which circumstances. The four most prevalent leadership contingency theories are Fieldler’s contingency theory, House’s path-goal theory, Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership theory, and the Vroom-Yetton-Jago decision-making model (DuBrin, 1995).

Over the last 30 years, several new leadership models have been proposed, including transactional, transformational, charismatic, and servant leadership. However, House (1995, as cited in Avolio, Bass, & Jung, 1999) explained that these “new” theories actually contain “components in varying form of inspirational, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration” (p. 452). Transformational leadership, introduced by James MacGregory Burns in 1978 (Pielstick, 1998), actually incorporated ideas of both transactional and transformational leadership models, which Bass (1985, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001) later refined into a transformational leadership theory. A transformational leader inspires followers to follow his vision (Steers & Black, 1994, as cited in Giampetro-Meyer, Brown & Browne, 1998) by building a commitment to the organization’s goals and empowering employees to attain them (Yukl, 1998, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001). Gasper (1992) depicted this model as “a mutually elevating process.” On the other hand, a transactional leader views leadership as a social exchange process among leaders and followers (Steers & Black, 1994, as cited in Giampetro-Meyer, Brown & Browne, 1998) and focuses on handling transactions with people, such as administrative issues and performance rewards. Kuhnert and Lewis (1987, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001) explained the transactional leadership model as mutual desires between leader and follower. “Transactional leaders give followers things they want in exchange for things leaders want” (p. 414). Some scholars, including Bass, believe that transformational leadership must be combined with transactional leadership in order to develop the trust and motivation necessary to realize an organization’s maximum potential (Avolio, Bass, & Jung, 1999). Gasper’s (1992) meta-analysis results indicated that transformational leadership is practiced and preferred to a greater extent than transactional leadership. Pielstick (1998) conducted a meta-ethnographic analysis of transformational leadership, and developed a profile incorporating the seven elements that emerged from the themes: creating a shared vision; communicating the vision; building relationships; developing a supporting organizational culture; guiding implementation; exhibiting character; and achieving results.

Charisma is a “positive and compelling quality of a person that makes…others want to be led” (DuBrin, 1995, p. 59). Bass (1988, as cited in DuBrin, 1995) defined charisma as a “special quality of leaders whose purposes, powers, and extraordinary determination differentiate them from others” (p. 59). House, Spanger, and Woycke (1991, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001) argued that charisma was not a personality trait of specific leaders. They believed that “personality characteristics such as these [charisma] contribute to the formation of charismatic relationships” (p. 411). House and Howell (1992, as cited in Hoy & Miskel, 2001) developed a list of personality traits found in charismatic leaders: achievement orientation; innovative; inspirational; self-confident; creative; energetic; drive for social influence; concern for the moral and non-exploitive use of power; high levels of work involvement and risk propensity; and propensity to be nurturing, socially sensitive, and considerate of followers. A recent qualitative leadership study conducted by Bryman and Stephens (1996) found that charisma was not identified as one of the principal traits of an effective leader.

The servant leadership model was first developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. A servant leader’s focus is on serving and meeting the needs of others. A servant leader strives to grow and develop people. Greenleaf (1977) believed that a servant leader’s success was based on whether or not his followers became “healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous,” and “more likely themselves to become servants” (pp. 13-14). A servant leader must value and accept others; have initiative, awareness, perception, and persuasion; be able to listen, love, understand, empathize, conceptualize, and build community; take time to withdraw and reenergize; know the unknowable; and foresee the unforeseeable.

Current Leadership Research

I next conducted a literature review on current leadership studies. Historically, leadership research studies have used quantitative research methods. Although these conventional research studies have provided many valuable findings, they cannot adequately explain the in-depth structure of leadership. To understand leadership, you must first understand people, and to understand people, you must understand their experiences and stories. Quantitative research does not portray the individuals behind the studies—their names; their faces; what they look like; what they think and value; their likes and dislikes; and their individual accounts. Perhaps Yukl (1994, as cited in Conger, 1998) had this thought in the back of his mind when he observed that, even after thousands of leadership studies, no one has developed a leadership theory that adequately explains every aspect of the leadership process.

Alvesson (1996) addressed this issue and stated that more and more researchers were turning to qualitative techniques because of their frustration with traditional, quantitative leadership research methods. Conger (1998) summarized some of the shortfalls of quantitative methods. “Leadership involves multiple levels of phenomena, possesses a dynamic character, and has a symbolic component. Quantitative methods, by themselves, are insufficient to investigate thoroughly phenomena with such characteristics” (p. 109). Avolio and Bass (1995, as cited in Conger, 1998) identified its failure to present effective connections among the various levels—the “intrapscyhic, the behavioral, the interpersonal, the organizational and the environmental—to explain leadership events and outcomes” (p. 109). Yukl (1994, as cited in Conger, 1998) concurred, stating that quantitative methods generally focused on one particular level of analysis, such as the behavioral dimension. Phillips (1973, as cited in Conger, 1998) pointed out that the survey frequently used for quantitative studies measured attitudes about behavior, rather than actual observed behavior. Lantis (1987, as cited in Conger, 1998) stated that quantitative methods failed to adequately measure interaction, which was a crucial leadership component. Conger (1988) said that leadership’s dynamic character was another problem for quantitative research.

Martin and Turner (1986, as cited in Alvesson, 1996) stated that qualitative research provided the leadership field with “broader and richer descriptions, sensitivity for the ideas and meanings of the individuals concerned, increased likelihood of developing empirically supported new ideas and theories, together with increased relevance and interest for practitioners” (p. 455). Conger (1998) agreed. He said that when used appropriately, qualitative research offered numerous advantages over quantitative research. First, qualitative methods provide more possibilities to discover leadership using longitudinal studies (Bryan, 1992, as cited in Conger, 1998). Second, qualitative research offers the flexibility to differentiate and identify unanticipated events during the research (Lundberg, 1976, as cited in Conger, 1998). Third, qualitative research provides the capability of examining processes more efficiently. Fourth, qualitative methods allow for more opportunity to discern contextual aspects. Fifth, qualitative methods are able to more effectively examine symbolic dimensions (Morgan & Smircich, 1980 as cited in Conger, 1998). Despite such advantages, Conger (1998) added that contributions of qualitative studies in leadership research have been meager because they are “time intensive and complex” (p. 107).

Bryman and Stephens (1996) and Tierney (1996) do not agree and assert that qualitative research is making a big impact in the field of leadership. Bryman and Stephens (1996) categorized and cited examples of numerous qualitative research studies that have been conducted: First, comprehensive case studies involving one organization and leader (Alvesson, 1992; Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991; Roberts, 1985; Tierney, 1987; Vanderslice, 1988, as cited by Bryman and Stephens, 1996). Second, multiple-case studies involving examinations of leaders within a few organizations (Bryman, Beardsworth & Keil, 1988; Pettigrew & Whipp, 1991, as cited by Bryman and Stephens, 1996). Third, studies that articulate the leadership practices identified by a large group of leaders (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Tierney, 1989, as cited by Bryman and Stephens, 1996). Fourth, case studies that concentrate on what people think about specific leaders and leadership practices (Kirby, King & Paradise, 1992, as cited by Bryman and Stephens, 1996).

There is no doubt that qualitative research is becoming more popular in the field of leadership. While conducting a qualitative leadership literature search, I found over 20 studies, including dissertations (Bryman & Stephens, 1996; Buttner, 2001; Eigel, 1998; Emgard, 2000; Gasper, 1992; Keyes, Hanley-Maxwell & Capper, 1999; Llovio, 1998; Muskopf, 1998; O’Hara, 2000; Parish, 1999; Peek, 1997; Phillips, 2000; Pielstick, 1998; Pintus, 1998; Reum, 2000; Strachan, 1999; Tedrow, 1999; Tierney, 1996; Tirmizi, 1998; Waldman, 1998; Walker, 1997; Woodward, 1988; Yoder, 1998).

Jesus and Spiritual Leadership Research

I next conducted a literature review on Jesus and spiritual leadership research studies. Over the past several years, numerous research studies, including dissertations, have been conducted on the leadership of Jesus Christ (Carroll, 1999; Ellis, 1994; Malakyan, 1998; May, 1995; Morse, 1996); Christian leadership (Allen, 1991; Collins, 1986; Duke, 1993; Emgard, 2000; Kirkpatrick, 1988; Paul, 1990; Woodward, 1988); educational leadership and spirituality (Keyes, Hanley-Maxwell & Capper, 1999; Koehler, 1992; Muskopf, 1998; O’Hara, 2000; Parish, 1999; Peek, 1997; Pintus, 1998; Walker, 1997; Yoder, 1998); and general leadership and spirituality (Fischer, 2000; Gray, 2000; Kotchian, 2000; Llovio, 1998; Phillips, 2000).

During my search, I also found a couple of recent articles on the leadership of Jesus (Chen, 1999; Throop, 2000). In his article entitled, Jesus in the Corner Office, Throop (2000) observed spirituality in business. “At the very time when secularism is discovered and decried in so much of American society, managers and supervisors are exploring the spirituality of business” (p. 3). Throop (2000) said that “Jesus the CEO” is the most current metaphor used to “inspire, teach, and evangelize about Jesus Christ” (p. 3). Citing historical theologian Jaroslav Pelikan, Throop (2000) traced some of the metaphors that have been used to describe Jesus down through the ages. In the medieval era, “Jesus the Judge” imitated the royal power that was prevalent in Europe during that period. In the 19th century, “Jesus the Great Moral Teacher” replicated the European and American confidence that education and support could produce a faithful Christian. “Jesus the Liberator” has been a “source of hope and strength in the midst of oppression” (p. 3), while “Jesus the Shepherd” focuses on “the need of a young, dispersed flock requiring care in a hostile world” (p. 3).

Writings on Jesus and Leadership

I also reviewed some of the current books written about Jesus and His leadership. Briner and Pritchard (1997) believe that leadership books on Jesus are popular because His leadership principles are applicable in any setting, “whether an office, a school, a small business, a multinational corporation, or a volunteer organization” (p. 3).

It was not surprising to me that the majority of the books I examined defined Jesus’ leadership as servant leadership since serving others was one of His most important teachings (Beausay, 1997; Briner & Pritchard 1998; Hedman, 1992; Jones, 1995; Manz, 1999; Wilkes, 1998; Williams, 1989). C. William Pollard (1996) labeled servant leadership as a leadership that people can trust, and one that will “nurture the soul” (p. 127). Jesus’ leadership has also been defined as charismatic (Hengel, 1981), transformational (Ford, 1991), and visionary (Dale, 1996; Jones, 1995). In his book, The Character of Christ, Harold Bosley (1967) identified meekness, honesty, purity, mercy, peace, and firmness as Jesus’ leadership characteristics. Many authors have written about the lessons we can learn and the wisdom we can glean from Jesus’ leadership (Beausay, 1997; Bietz, 1980; Briner, 1996; Briner & Pritchard, 1997, 1998; Hedman, 1992; Manz, 1999; Murdock, 1996; Nouwen, 2000; Zabloski, 1996).

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