Pure leadership The pure leadership of Jesus Christ

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Eleven different leadership styles emerged from the interviews, drawings, and songs. In order to represent the collective thoughts and perceptions of the people involved in this project; the leadership styles were narrowed down to those that were identified by over 50 percent of the total participants, which resulted in four leadership models.

The findings below represent the top four leadership styles of Jesus Christ, as identified by the 27 participants involved in this research project.

Servant Leadership

The servant leadership model tied for the number-one leadership style of Jesus, along with leading by example. Carol credits Jesus as being the true author of servant leadership. “Many people reference Greenleaf as the founder of servant leadership, but actually it’s been around for over 2,000 years. Jesus defined and practiced the principles of servant leadership. Greenleaf simply updated them for today’s secular society.” Joy simply labeled Jesus’ servant leadership as “other centeredness.” Dennis said that Jesus taught and personified servant leadership:

Jesus was The Servant Leader. His entire life illustrated His main principles in serving others. He said we should aim to be last, not first. He showed us that we should be a servant and put others first. This, to me, is what makes a great leader. My career has been shaped by Jesus’ model of a servant leader. He taught me that if I want to be a real leader, I must put others first, be humble, place myself last.

Marcia defined the servant leadership style of Jesus as seeking out and helping people:

Jesus was a servant leader. His approach was to find the people and then help them…Jesus was open and accessible. He went to the people. He traveled the dusty roads and went from town to town. He spoke to people in the synagogues, along the road, in the mountains, by the water, and in their homes. He went everywhere. It reminds me of when Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. He said that when one sheep was lost, He wouldn’t wait for that sheep to come home. Instead, He would go out and find that lost sheep. There is not doubt that we are the lost sheep. Servant leadership is seeking us out and bringing us back to the fold.

Pam discussed servant leadership in terms of power:

Unfortunately, too many people have the wrong understanding of what leadership is all about. It is our responsibility as parents and teachers to teach our young people that being a leader is not about dominating or ruling over others. Christ clearly illustrated that being a leader is about serving others. It’s about being a model and helping people become the very best that they can become. It’s about caring for people and being kind to others. It’s about helping your neighbor in need. That is real power. Jesus showed us that the difference between servant leadership and other leadership styles really boils down to the use, or should I say abuse, of power and authority.

Carol explained the connection between service and leadership this way:

A student once asked me in class to explain how a leader can serve and lead because he didn’t think it was possible to do both. I referenced Jesus as the perfect example of a genuine servant leader. Jesus’ mission was us—you and me. He believed in His mission and He loved people—that is what links service and leadership. Then I asked the class if they had that kind of commitment and love for their fellow man. Do you?

George described the association between service and leadership a little differently. “Jesus had a huge amount of love and a big heart…I think these were the secret of His ability to lead and to serve.”

Jesus’ servant-leader style is clearly illustrated in the Gospels. Matthew quoted Jesus one day while He was teaching His disciples:

Heaven measures success by what a man does for others, not by what they do for him. If you want to be important, then you should be the one most willing to serve…I have not come to exercise authority over people, but to serve them (Matt. 20:26-28).

Another time, Jesus told a group of people to love God and their neighbors. “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind….You should love and value your neighbor as much as you love and value yourself” (Matt. 22:37-38). And yet on another occasion, Jesus proclaimed to His disciples and to the crowd of people listening, “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” (Matt. 23:11). Mark recorded it this way. “He said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be willing to serve others and be last of all’ ” (Mark 9:35). Mark recorded Jesus’ words to His disciples after they had been arguing about which one of them would be honored the most when He set up His kingdom

The one who wants to be the greatest among you must be willing to serve the rest of you. And whoever wants to be the chief must be a servant to all. For even the Son of God has come, not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:43-45).

Luke also recorded the same incident. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be the most honored in my kingdom, let him be a willing servant. If he wants to rule, let him learn to be humble….I’m here to serve, not to be served (Luke 22:24-27). Another time Jesus said, “Give something to everyone who asks you to help them….Treat everyone as you would like them to treat you (Luke 6:30-31). Jesus’ powerful story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) sums up servant leadership very well. “Anyone who needs help is your neighbor. Be ready to help him” (Luke 10:37). Even after Jesus had risen from the dead, He served His disciples—breakfast by the lake—before ascending to Heaven:

When they [disciples] made it to shore, they could see that Jesus had built a little fire and was cooking some fish for them. They also noticed that He had a number of small loaves of bread nearby….Jesus called to them, “Come, it’s time to eat.” They came and sat down….then He served them, giving each man a fish and some bread (John 21:1-14).

When asked for an example that demonstrated Jesus’ servant leadership, Dennis chose the Last Supper:

Jesus demonstrated His servant leadership every single day in many different ways and on many different occasions. I think of all the times He helped others and took care of them, but washing the feet of His disciples, to me, was the crowing act.

Wilkes (1988) agreed. In his book, Jesus on Leadership, he wrote: “Next to His death on the cross, washing the feet of his disciples was Jesus’ ultimate model of servant leadership. On His last night with His leadership team, Jesus chose to serve those who should have served Him” (p. 125). John described this powerful act of humility:

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…Jesus got up from the table and…took a large towel, wrapped it around His waist and prepared to wash His disciples’ feet. No one else had offered to do it, so He poured water into a basin and washed each man’s feet and then dried them with the towel (John 13:1, 4-5).

After He finished, Jesus sat down at the table with them and explained what He had done:

You call me Lord and that’s right because I am your Lord. So, if I’m willing to do anything to serve you, even what you consider a menial task like washing dirty feet, you should be willing to do the same for one another. I’ve given you an example of what it means to serve. So you should do what I have done for you (John 13:12-15).

Although servant leadership was the top leadership style in this study, along with leading by example, many people were hesitant to choose this model because they did not believe it fully explained Jesus’ leadership. Many people associated “wholeness” or “completeness” with His leadership style. Victoria explained it this way:

There are a lot of servant leadership components in Jesus’ leadership style…but on a broader paradigm than what we think of when Greenleaf wrote Servant Leadership. I think on a more holistic point than what a lot of people currently think of when they think of servant leadership.

Dennis held the same opinion. “I guess if I were to pick a style, it would have to be servant leadership…but that doesn’t capture it all…Yes, He was here to serve others…but more than that, He made them whole.” Continuing on, Victoria added, “It’s more than His healing. He gave people what they needed, but in doing so, He went beyond that and made them…complete…whole.” Louise added:

He serviced people. He gave them what they needed—blind people were given sight, deaf people were given hearing, the crippled were able to walk again. And, at the same time He handled their physical ailments, He was also reaching them spiritually. He wanted to make everyone whole again.

Ruby concurred. “He served…others by helping people in whatever ways they needed helping. He loved serving others. And, not only did He heal them physically, He also healed them spiritually. He came here on earth to make us complete.”

Pam stated that Jesus’ leadership style could not be limited to the servant-leader model, and did not believe that any theory existed that could completely explain it:

Jesus’ leadership style included servant leadership, but it was so much more. In fact, I cannot think of one specific approach that would totally explain His manner and I doubt that any scholars have discovered the one pure and perfect leadership style either. Jesus, as a servant leader, makes you want to do the best you can in whatever situation you’re in, not because you’re coerced, but out of admiration and respect.

Carol also said that Jesus’ leadership did not fit into any one particular leadership model. “I don’t think we can pin Jesus down to one specific approach….They [leadership styles] should probably be expanded.” Marcia went as far as to suggest that a new leadership theory was required:

If I had to choose one leadership style, I think I’d have to develop a brand new theory that totally encompassed Jesus. It definitely includes the servant model, but it also incorporates a wholeness or completeness, perfection, one that focuses on the inside.


Leading by example tied for the most identified leadership style, along with servant leadership. Florence and Ted both believed that Jesus led by example. Jeanette explained it in just a few words. “Jesus led by example. He was strong, yet tender...He leads without force.” Most of the people I interviewed added a description about His flawlessness when they spoke about Jesus leading by example. “He was perfect and led by example,” Merilyn stated. Dennis called Him the “Perfect Example” and Louise added, “He is a perfect example in every way.” Ruby explained what leading by example meant to her. “Anything He asks us to do, He does it first…He leads by example.” George elaborated. “He sets an example for us that attracts us. We find it very attractive but hard to achieve. We have to let Him do the achieving.” Anne connected leading by example with servanthood. “He came to this earth as an example of how He wanted us to serve—to be a servant—and to receive from Him, in the end, our reward of His kingdom.”

Again, although leading by example was selected as one of Jesus’ main leadership styles, people did not feel that it completely explained His leadership method. Cheri had difficulty when she tried to match His style with leading by example:

He is so much more than a leader that it is difficult to only think in those terms….I believe His leadership style is primarily leading by example. He was perfect, without blemish, full of compassion towards us. He was and is all wise, all-powerful. He is all the things we like our heroes to be, plus much more. He has paid the penalty for our sins so He has the power to forgive our sins and to offer us eternal life in a perfect environment with Him.


Leading by teaching was the third most identified leadership style of Jesus. Luke wrote that Jesus “taught the people whenever He had an opportunity, whether in the synagogue or on the street, and everyone who heard Him praised what He said” (Luke 4:15). Jesus was called “Rabbi” or “Teacher” more often than any other title (Briner & Pritchard, 1997). Marcia called Jesus a master and brilliant teacher:

Jesus was a master teacher. He was the most brilliant teacher that there ever was. He trained 12 men who went on and carried the Good News to the entire world. He taught them about His mission, about heaven, and how to pray. He taught both their hearts and their minds.

Most everyone I spoke with stated that Jesus the Leader was also Jesus the Teacher. In his book, The Management Methods of Jesus, Briner (1996) talked about the connection between leading and teaching. “Most legendary corporate giants, from Henry Ford to Tom Watson to Ross Perot, have been persistent and motivational teachers. They may well have received their inspiration from Jesus Christ, the greatest of all teachers” (p. 11). Dennis said that as a leader, he, too, must become a teacher:

As a leader in my company, my community, and my church, I have learned from Jesus that it is important to be a teacher….I have to be patient with others and train them. It is the only way to help people become the best that they can be. By moving them up, I can move up.

Jones (1992) wrote that Jesus’ focus while He was here on earth could be summed up by one word—education:

He went everywhere teaching, healing, and preaching…..Since teaching is educating the mind and preaching is educating the heart, two-thirds of Jesus’ work was education….If you look at the instances when He healed people…He spoke to them about an attitude change or a new way of behaving that was to go along with their physical state of being…I feel safe in saying education was Jesus’ number-one priority (p. 210).

Some people believed that Jesus effectively led by teaching because of His masterful communication skills. Anne stated, “One of Jesus’ best leader traits was His ability to communicate with people. People listened; unfortunately, not everyone accepted. The people who received Him were happy and filled with joy. The people who rejected Him walked away in sorrow.” Briner and Pritchard (1998) wrote about the effectiveness of Jesus’ speaking skills:

He spoke to instruct…to inspire and challenge….He was a masterful public speaker. Leaders down through the ages have profited from His example. Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the most effective of American political speakers, is said to have modeled his speaking on the discourses of Jesus (pp. 90-91).

In his powerful book, Transforming Leadership, Ford (1991) wrote about the many different hats worn by Jesus during various speaking engagements:

Sometimes He spoke as a rabbi, the master teacher expounding His thoughts to a crowd sitting at His feet. When He debated with opponents He was like a skillful lawyer, deflecting their attacks and counter attacking with devastating thrust of His own. On other occasions He was like a good counselor or physician, drawing out the inner thoughts and needs of the individuals who came to Him. At such times He could be an excellent listener. The account of His talk with a Samaritan woman by a well indicates that she spoke twice as much as He did. When He was conversing at a dinner part, He spoke as an informal visitor and friend. Yet at other times He rose like a prophet in public to call down woes on those who failed to respond to God’s challenge. He lamented like a lover when he wept over Jerusalem….Whatever role Jesus took, the central thing that shone through was the very thing we most lack today, the sense of reality. So often we struggle to say what we mean and mean what we say. In Him, word and reality were one. His person, vision, and mission were all integrated in His speech (pp. 227-228).

Others believed that Jesus effectively led by teaching because of His ability to adapt His methods to fit the specific needs of people. Louise explained. “He was able to talk to people and teach them on their own level. His disciples were unlearned men and He was able to hold His own with the rabbis and all the religious leaders.” Ruby described it this way. “Jesus was a leader by teaching and He used different methods for different people.” Merilyn concurred. “A good leader must train his people and Jesus….used many different ways to teach.” Ted also agreed. “He reached people by…teaching in many different ways.” Florence added, “He knew all the ways to reach people and they were constantly amazed at His powerful teaching methods.” Jeanette believed “people responded to Him because He was able to converse with them—all of them, at any level.” Steve explained it this way:

It helps me see how Jesus lovingly unfolds the mysteries of God and Heaven, through simple means—easily understandable stories that we can identify with. Jesus knew how to deal with different people and different situations. He was able to tailor His words to meet the specific circumstances.

Ford (1991) wrote about the masterful ways Jesus matched His words with each particular situation:

The Gospels picture Jesus in a wide variety of situations, where He showed a striking ability to suit His words to the occasion and the audience. With cold and callous religious leaders He could be devastatingly harsh; with a woman caught in an adulterous liaison He could be both amazingly strong and tender. He taught His disciples simply and directly, yet mystified the multitudes with the puzzling elements of His parables…His style showed remarkable flexibility (p. 227).

Not only could Jesus effectively select His words to fit the specific occasion and audience, Marcia also admired His ability for dealing with people individually and in small groups:

I’m sure that you’ll agree, as an educator, the personal component is essential. Jesus knew how to deal with people individually and in small groups. Some of the most essential instruction was given privately—the Samaritan woman at the well, the night meeting with Nicodemus, and many private sessions with His disciples. He spoke to every heart.

Merilyn focused on Jesus’ ability to speak simply and effectively. “He was efficient when He spoke and taught. Every word He spoke had meaning and power. I doubt that He ever used any useless words. He spoke so that anyone who wanted to could understand Him.” Ford (1991) also spoke about the effectiveness of Jesus’ words:

His conversation included no wasted words, no useless patronizing, and no shallow platitudes. His words were as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through confusion, pretension, and delusion, and penetrating the very hearts of the men and women He encountered. When He used metaphors and graphic images, as He frequently did, they were never mere rhetorical flourishes….It is clear that He chose His words carefully for maximum impact (p. 241).

Marcia also talked about the simplicity of His message:

He was able to present the most difficult truth in a most simple manner. I always think of His simplicity being as effective as a little girl climbing up into daddy’s lap and, using only three simple, one-syllable words, uttering one of the most powerful sentences in the world, “I love you.” How simple, how pure, but what an impact those words have. And Jesus’ message was exactly the same way.

Jesus was also a masterful storyteller. Briner and Pritchard (1997) said that people were drawn to stories because “they are like windows to the truth” (p. 82). They also believed that stories were a powerful teaching tool for leaders. “As a leader you need to teach through relevant stories that create heroes, build legends, and help establish the kind of culture that inspires your followers to excellence” (pp. 83-84). Wilkes (1998) associated stories with creating a better tomorrow. “Stories…help the leader paint a picture of the future….[and] help leaders address the issues of change” (p. 97). Carol believed that Jesus’ stories made a lasting connection with people:

Jesus told powerful stories, ones that the people could relate to and identify with. In fact, He used parables to teach many important lessons. Whenever I read His parables, I can see a vivid picture in my mind, I can touch it, taste it, and feel it…like the story about the Good Samaritan. I can never get through that story without tears welling up in my eyes. What if that had been me lying on the side of the road, beaten up, and dying, and people just passed me by?

Some of the disciples wrote about Jesus’ remarkable teaching ability. People “were amazed at His teaching, both at what He said and the authoritative way He said it” (Mark 1:22). “When Jesus finished talking, the people sat there stunned because His teaching was so different from that of the scribes and the Pharisees. He had made things plain to them and had given them a sense of certainty and hope” (Matt 7:28–29). People wondered at His kindly method of teaching. “He will not argue or shout nor make loud speeches. He will not crush those whose hearts are bruised and will not snuff out the weakest flame” (Matt. 12:19-20).

George linked healing and education. “Jesus often used healing with His teaching.” Each of the Gospels connect His teaching with His healing. In fact, Jesus, Himself, said that He healed and taught people (Mark 1:38). He healed a leper (Matt 8:2–3), a Roman officer’s son (Matt. 8:5–13), Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14-15), a paralytic (Matt. 9:2-7), two demon-possessed men (Mark 5:1-20), a sick man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9), and a man born blind (John 9:1-7). He went from village to village “healing and teaching” (Luke 7:22). He healed on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:10-13) and after the Sabbath (Mark 1:32-34). He also raised people from the dead (Luke 8:49-56, John 11:1-44).

Briner and Pritchard (1998) summarized the importance of Jesus’ teaching by connecting it to His mission:

He shows us that teaching is not an interruption of the mission, but rather it is the mission….Because Jesus placed a high priority on teaching His disciples, millions around the world and down through the ages have been blessed. The wonderful things the disciples were able to do after Jesus left them were the result of His putting teaching them first on His agenda (pp. 121-122).


The fourth most identified leadership style was transformational leadership. Steve said that Jesus “was the ever gentle, patient leader in taking a world where it needed to go.” Victoria also saw Jesus as a transformational leader. “I think Jesus’ leadership style was holistic…with…transformational…components….and definitely transforming lives.” Anne linked Jesus’ charisma with His transformational leadership. “Jesus’ drawing power brought people to Him and then He was able to transform their lives.” Carol associated prayer with transformation:

Prayer really transforms. It transformed Jesus when He was weak and weary and it can transform us today….He was transformed in the Garden of Gethsemane….First, He was overwhelmed because He was carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders, but after He spent time with God, He received strength and energy to go on and face the cross. He also transformed people’s lives when they accepted Him. And, He transformed the disciples. He took every opportunity, every word, every encounter, to teach and transform their lives.

Jones (1995) wrote about Jesus’ ability to transform. “Jesus had an astonishing ability to create what He needed from something that was already there. He took what was at hand…and created what He needed” (p. 65). Yes, Jesus definitely was a transformational leader. He trained the disciples “who went on to so influence the world that time itself is now recorded as being before…or after…His existence (Jones, 1995, introduction).


Because participants were asked to draw pictures without using any words, I have titled each drawing for easier reference. Each picture is included under the tabbed section entitled “Drawings.”

Jesus the Shepherd

Michael, a twelve-year-old boy, saw Jesus the Leader as our Shepherd. His drawing portrayed the leadership traits of compassion, humility, and charisma, as well as the servant leadership style.

Jesus described Himself as the “Good Shepherd”:

The sheep…recognize the shepherd’s voice as he calls them by name and leads them out to pasture. As they go to pasture, the shepherd goes ahead of them and they follow him because they know him. They won’t follow a stranger; they’ll run from him because they know that he’s not the shepherd…I am the door into God’s sheep pen. If anyone comes into the pen through me, he’ll be safe and will find plenty of pasture from which to eat…I’m interested in saving the sheep and giving them a whole new life. I am also the Good Shepherd and am ready to give my life for the sheep…I know my sheep and they know me (John 10:3-14).

A leader directs, guides, instructs, and leads others. A shepherd leads, rather than drives, his flock; he knows what is best for his sheep and knows exactly how far his sheep can travel. Jesus is our Shepherd; He leads and protects His sheep. “Whenever He saw a group of people, His heart was moved with compassion because they seemed so helpless and misled, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). Jesus loves us so much that He is willing to go and search for even one lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7). Matthew recorded Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep:

If a man has a hundred sheep, but one of them gets lost, doesn’t he leave the others at home and personally go out and search everywhere to find the one lost sheep? And when he finds it, what does he do? He picks it up, puts it on his shoulder and, at that moment, forgets all about the other ninety-nine sheep which are safely at home and rejoices over this one sheep that he found (Matt. 18:12-13).

It is interesting to note that a shepherd takes the initiative to search for his lost sheep, rather than waiting for the sheep to find their way home. Clearly, Jesus believed that the one person who is found and helped is more important than all the others who safely remained in the fold. Carol described this as valuing people. “His leadership illustrated the fact that Jesus viewed every person as being precious and valuable.”

Marcia believed that shepherding was about relationships. “Relationship is the main concept of shepherding, because a shepherd represents both love and service.” “Shepherding people,” wrote Klaus Bockmuehl (as cited in Ford, 1991, p. 163), “means to help them grow; it demands thoughtfulness about how to make the other one great and it implies nothing less than the act of true friendship for others.” Ford (1991) described Jesus the Shepherd as someone who empowers others:

[Shepherd is a] key Biblical term for the leader who empowers others….Jesus’ use of His time and influence was both extensive and intensive. He divided His energy among the many and the few, in line with His strategy of saving the sheep—the crowds—and building up the under-shepherds—the disciples (pp. 162, 164).

He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands

Steve, a man in his mid-40s, saw Jesus as a power leader holding the universe in His hands. His drawing revealed the leadership traits of compassion, and power and authority.

God the Son holds the world in His hands. He is powerful enough to manage the entire world and yet sensitive and caring enough to be involved in each person’s life. God created this real and orderly universe. “God Himself…formed the earth and made it, He hath established it, He created it…He formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18, KJV). His words were powerful enough to create this universe. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Ps. 33:6, KJV). “For by Him were all things created that are in the heaven and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16, KJV).

God the Son is clearly in charge of this world. “Have you not heard that I control the destiny of nations? Don’t you know that I planned what would happen before you were born?” (2 Kings 19:25). “I see the end from the beginning and from ancient times I have known what would happen” (Isa. 46:10). Ellen White (1942) had no doubt that God was in charge of everything that happens in this world:

In the annals of human history the growth of nations, the rise and fall of empires, appear as dependent on the will and prowess of man…But in the Word of God the curtain is drawn aside and we behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counter-play of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will (p. 173).

Jesus knows each of us intimately and knew all about us before we were even born. “I cared for you when you were still in the womb. I have carried you in my arms since you were born. I am your God and will take care of you until you’re old and your hair is gray. I am the One who made you and will continue to carry you. I will help you and rescue you” (Isa 46:3-4). “God never loses sight of you. Look at the sparrows and see how little they’re valued, and yet not one of them dies without God noticing it. In fact, God even knows the number of hairs you have on your head” (Matt. 10:29-30).

The power of Jesus Christ is ours for the asking. “God…is able to do immeasurably far beyond what we can ask or think and…wants to do even more for us by His power in our lives” (Ephesians 3:20). Carol summed up Jesus’ power and authority beautifully. “Christ is large enough to save the world, yet little enough to dwell within us.”

Jesus the Teacher: The Sea of People

This picture, drawn by Rose, a female in her mid-50s, clearly illustrated Jesus leading by teaching. Her drawing shows Him teaching a sea of people and, based on their smiles, He has brought peace, joy, and comfort into their lives. Her drawing revealed the leadership traits of compassion, and charisma, and the leadership styles of leading by teaching, leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership.

Matthew wrote a great deal about Jesus the Teacher:

Jesus went on foot throughout Galilee spreading the Good News…by teaching in the synagogues, preaching in the open air, and healing people….He became known almost overnight….Large crowds followed Him wherever He went. Not only did people from Galilee follow Him, but also people from Decapolis, Jerusalem, the southernmost parts of Judea, and even from the other side of Jordan. One day when Jesus saw the crowds following Him, He went out of town to a hillside…surrounded by His disciples and the people. Then He shared with them all of the distinctive joy of His kingdom….Come to me, you who are tired and worried, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 4:23-25; Matt. 5:1-2; Matt. 11:28).

Jesus the Teacher: Child in Lap

This picture, drawn by Tequila, a female graduate student in her late 20s, plainly illustrated Jesus the Leader as Jesus the Teacher. Her picture revealed the leadership traits of compassion, humility, and charisma, and the leadership styles of leading by teaching, leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership.

Her picture shows people of every age surrounding Jesus while He talks to them about God’s wonderful love. It is obvious that they are happy to hear His message because everyone is smiling. Jesus is seated and at their level in order to meet their needs. He does not stand above them in a pulpit, nor does He distance Himself from them; He is right there in their midst and has a young child sitting in His lap. Jesus “called a mother with a small child over to Him. Tenderly taking the little one in His arms,” He said to His disciples, “ ‘Unless you change and become as trusting and harmless as this little child, you cannot…be admitted into God’s kingdom…The person who humbles himself like this child is great in the sight of heaven’ “ (Matt. 18:2-4). Matthew also recorded another occasion when Jesus blessed many children:

Mothers with their children crowded in to see Him, asking Him to pray for the little ones and to bless them. The disciples scolded the mothers for bothering Jesus with their insignificant requests but Jesus told them to allow the mothers to bring Him their children. “Let the little ones comes to me. Heaven belongs to people who are as innocent as children. Don’t hold them back. They, too, are part of my kingdom” and He blessed every single child (Matt. 19:13-15).

Jesus and Smiling People

This picture, drawn by Amanda, a ten-year-old girl, illustrated Jesus the Leader as someone who is accessible and personally involved in our lives. It revealed the leadership traits of compassion and charisma, and the leadership styles of leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership.

Amanda’s drawing, which I labeled, “Jesus and Smiling People,” exudes Christ’s love for His children. Jesus is larger than anyone else in the picture, representing Jesus as our Father, our compassionate Leader, as well as His superiority over us. His arms are outstretched, compelling us to take shelter in them. Jesus’ love for each of us is clearly shown by the heart she drew on Him. The smiles and hearts drawn on everyone illustrates their love and gratitude for Christ and for each other, as a consequence of what He has done in their lives. Joy’s words portrayed the spirit of this drawing. “For me, personally, compassion keeps the notion of being my brother’s and sister’s keeper central to my focus. It also encourages me to intercede in prayer for others and to demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways.”

Jesus the Healer

Bob, a middle-aged man in his late 50s, saw Jesus the Leader as Jesus the Healer. His drawing revealed the leadership traits of compassion, power and authority, and charisma, and the leadership styles of servant leadership and transformational leadership.

Jesus brought physical and spiritual healing to many. He is the only One able to cleanse us and make us whole. In her inspired book, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White (1940) wrote about Jesus’ power to make us whole citing the time He healed the crippled man at Bethesda:

Through the same faith, we may receive spiritual healing. By sin, we have been severed from the life of God. Our souls are palsied. Of ourselves, we are no more capable of living a holy life than was the impotent man capable of walking.…Let these desponding, struggling ones look up. The Savior is bending over the purchase of His blood, saying with inexpressible tenderness and pity, “Wilt thou be made whole?” He bids you arise in health and peace (p. 203).


Each song is included under the tabbed section entitled “Songs.”

Savior Like A Shepherd

Oliver, an elderly man in his early 90s, saw Jesus the Leader as our Shepherd. This hymn revealed the leadership traits of compassion, prayer, power and authority, and charisma, and the leadership styles of leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership. Jesus’ leadership is clearly portrayed throughout this hymn through the following phrases: lead us; feed us; prepare us; we need thy tender care; befriend us; guard us; defend us; seek us when we get lost; hear us when we pray; receive us; have mercy to relieve us; cleanse us; and give us the power to be free.

Anywhere with Jesus

Cheryl, a young woman in her mid-20s, selected another hymn that clearly portrayed Jesus as our Leader. This song illustrated the leadership traits of compassion, prayer, and power and authority, and the leadership styles of leading by teaching, leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership. Jesus’ leadership is demonstrated throughout this song through the following phrases: anywhere with Jesus I can safely go; anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid; anywhere with Jesus I am not alone; anywhere with Jesus is a house of praise; anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep; and anywhere with Jesus will be home sweet home.

He Leadeth Me

Carolyn, a woman in her mid-50s, chose another hymn that portrayed Jesus as our Leader. This song illustrated the leadership traits of compassion, prayer, and power and authority, and the leadership styles of leading by teaching, leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership. Jesus’ leadership is revealed in this hymn through the following phrases: He leadeth me; whatever I do or wherever I go, God’s hand leadeth me; I clasp my hand in Thine; I’m content whatever lot I see since God leadeth me; and I am His faithful follower.

Father Lead Me Day by Day

Calvin, a man in his mid-50s, chose another hymn that illustrated Jesus’ leadership. This song demonstrated the leadership traits of compassion, prayer, and power and authority, and the leadership styles of leading by teaching, leading by example, servant leadership, and transformational leadership. Jesus’ leadership is illustrated through the following phrases: lead me; teach me; show me; Thou canst save; make me; keep me; let me abide in Thy love; shield me; help me; and make me steadfast, wise and strong.


The traits and leadership styles identified in this project are found in current research studies and writings about Jesus and His leadership. However, I was unable to match one particular leadership theory with all of the main qualities and leadership styles identified by the majority of participants. Several of the traits—compassion, humility, and prayer—are associated with the servant-leader model. Similarly, it can be argued that leading by teaching, leading by example, and transformational leadership are also components found in servant leadership since the focus is on growing and developing others. However, servant leadership does not support the “wholeness” or “completeness” identified by so many people. In addition, a number of people emphatically stated that this model did not totally explain Jesus’ unique leadership style.

Out of 30 leadership characteristics that were identified by everyone, only 5—compassion, power and authority, prayer, charisma, and humility—were selected by over 50 percent of the people. An analysis of these top traits revealed no important differences by religion or age group; however, several distinctions were noted when compared by gender. First, power and authority was overwhelming selected by males (90 percent), as compared to females (65 percent). This is not unexpected since power and authority is frequently associated with and sought after by men. Second, 65 percent of the females identified charisma as a quality, as compared to only 40 percent of the males. This was surprising since charisma is frequently linked with powerful leaders. Third, prayer was selected by 65 percent of the female participants, as compared to only 40 percent of male participants. I am hesitant to draw any conclusions about this statistic until further research is conducted.

Only 4 of the initial 11 leadership styles were identified by over one-half of the participants. Again, no significant differences were found among religions or age groups, although two differences were noted by gender. First, over 82 percent of the females selected the servant leadership style, as compared to only 50 percent of the males. This may suggest that females are more comfortable with this role since they have traditionally been associated—in the conventional roles of wife, mother, nurse, and social worker—as the caregiver, serving others, and placing other people before themselves. Second, 88 percent of the females associated Jesus’ leadership with leading by example, as compared to only 60 percent of the males. Again, there may be a connection between leading by example and the conventional roles that women have held in our society, but I cannot draw any conclusions until further research is conducted.

Why were these particular traits and styles the most chosen ones? The fact that all of the people chosen for this study were professed Christians played a significant role. The top leadership traits chosen are also qualities that are important in the lives of Christians; ones that Christians strive for and desire to consume every part of their existence. Every Christian wants his life to be filled with compassion and humility and every Christian understands the transforming power of prayer. Christians also strive to represent Jesus to others, and possessing both charisma and power and authority, in the name of Jesus Christ, will help draw people to Him.

The source of these qualities is the love of Jesus. If we keep ourselves connected to Him, these characteristics may be developed and nurtured within each one of us. In His insightful book, In the Light of God’s Love, Ty Gibson (1995) spoke about the importance of Jesus’ love in our lives. “Abiding in God’s love is the real essence of Christian life” (p. 12). If we abide in His love, we will internalize it, and will want to share it with others. Gibson (1995) described the depth and power of Christ’s love, and the spiritual power that can be ours for the asking:

In the heart of God there exists a quality and depth of love so utterly selfless, and so completely devoted to our happiness and well-being, that He count our lives more dear than His own. This love found its ultimate expression in the unpretended sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of the infinite God….The Scriptures imply that had not an angel appeared to strengthen Him, He would have died there in the garden before reaching the cross….Jesus took into Himself the guilt of every lie, every theft, every murder, every rape, every sin ever committed by human beings….Jesus…could have called ten thousand angels to deliver Him. But no, He chose, to count your life and mine more dear than His own. Compelled by an unconquerable love that knows no bounds, Jesus was willing to cease living forever rather than to seal our doom. In the realization of such amazing love, do you begin to see that herein…is a reservoir of untapped spiritual power? As you contemplate His unreserved sacrifice made for your salvation, do you sense in your heart the inflowing of divine strength, the arousing of moral energy?….That power…[is] real power. Divine love. Unconditional love. Selfless love. Love that soars beyond comprehension. Love that would not let us go. The love of God in Christ (pp. 13-18).


After analyzing the top leadership traits and styles that were identified in this study, as hard as I tried, I could not squeeze Jesus into one specific leadership mold that satisfactorily explained His particular method, as understood by the participants. I began to think that perhaps Marcia was correct. Maybe a new leadership theory was needed to adequately describe Jesus’ approach to leading. After reviewing the transcripts, reading the words of the songs, and examining the drawings again, I discovered one very significant thread that wove everybody’s thoughts together—purity. Many people used the word “pure” when describing Jesus, His character, and His leadership. Here is a sampling of how some of the participants wove this word into their conversations. “He was pure,” Jeanette exclaimed. Steve used it to describe His character. “His pureness of character and His never-ending love should be enough to keep us looking upward.” Ruby proclaimed, “His light and pureness can make us whole forevermore.” George added, “But, we have to allow His light and pureness in. It’s our choice.” Art used it to describe Jesus’ leadership. “There have been a lot of good leaders in our world, but never a perfect or pure one except Jesus.” Cheri also used this word to depict Jesus as a leader. “There cannot be a more perfect leader….His leadership is pure….He is our ‘all in all’. He is whatever we need. He can woo tenderly or flash immeasurable power and greatness….He is our very lifeline and sustainer.”

I propose a new leadership model to explain Jesus’ exclusive style of leadership, one that integrates the traits and leadership styles identified by the participants in this study—PURE Leadership.

PURE Leadership Defined

The word pure is defined as being free from any adulterant, defects, or anything that taints, impairs, or infects; clear; simple; absolute; perfect; faultless; free from sin or guilt; blameless; and cleansing (as defined by Webster’s Dictionary). The quality pure is more difficult to explain. Harold Bosley (1967) had the same challenge when he identified purity as one of Jesus’ characteristics. “Like other great values, purity is hard to catch in the net of a single definition. It means so many different things when found in different settings” (p. 55). But that is exactly the point. Purity works in every setting. It is broad enough to be universal and yet small enough to be situational. It is unpretentious and unassuming, and yet it is engulfed in power. Purity is a vital quality. “Purity is not an optional aspect of life; it is an essential attribute of a strong purpose in life. It is an essential quality in the life of mankind if men are to continue on the face of this earth” (Bosley, 1967, p. 66).

PURE Leadership Described

It has been said that leaders cannot separate their leadership from their personality and character. The people in this study described Jesus’ character as “perfect and pure.” Jesus professed to be the lucid medium of God, the Father. “When you’re looking at Me, you’re looking at the Father” (John 14:9). Only in Jesus do we find wholeness and completeness. Bosley (1967) said that it is only by Jesus’ purity that we can “become what we very much want to be—whole beings, persons made whole by the love of God in our lives” (p. 67).

PURE Leadership is specific to Jesus Christ because only He is pure. Pure describes His character, His leadership, His love, and His truth. “Every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5, KJV). “Without God,” Bosley (1967) wrote, purity is “unattainable; it is unthinkable” (p. 66). Pure also describes what we must endeavor to become. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus said, “for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8, KJV). “Fill your minds with things that are true, honest, and just. Think about things that are noble, pure and lovely” (Phil. 4:8). “Keep yourselves pure” (1 Tim. 5:22).

Christ’s leadership style is pure, complete, flawless, and universal. Christ has compassion, love, concern for others, power and authority, charisma, and humility and He leads by serving others, by example, by teaching, and through transforming lives.

PURE Leadership: An acronym

PURE is an acronym that explains Christ’s leadership style. He leads by His Perfect, Uplifting, Righteous Example. PURE is also an acronym for His leadership characteristics:

P: Perfect, Powerful, Persuasive, People-Oriented, Patient, Passionate, Participative, Productive, Perceptive, Perseverant, Prudent, Praiseworthy, Purposeful, Polite, Peaceful, Practical, Protector, Problem-Solver, Prayer, and Pray-er

U: Uplifting, Understanding, Unpretentious, Unassuming, Unselfish, Unifying, Unfailing, Unique, Upright, and Unconditional Love

R: Righteous, Redeemer, Reliant on God, Respectful, Radiant, Rare, Reformer, Relational, Reliable, Resourceful, Restorer, Rewarder, and Risk-Taker

E: Example, Empathetic, Expert, Effective, Expressive, Efficient, Engaging, Excellent, Educator, Extraordinary, Earnest, Eloquent, Empowering, Energetic, Enthusiastic, Everlasting, Exemplary, Expressive, Exquisite, Eternal, and Encouraging

PURE Leadership Model: A metaphor

Jesus’ PURE leadership is like the helm of a ship. The captain steers the helm; likewise, Christ steers our lives. The helm powers the vessel; similarly, Jesus powers our lives. Christ is the hub of the helm and His characteristics—compassion, love, concern for others, power and authority, charisma, and humility—are its spokes. A helm forms a full circle. Similarly, Jesus’ leadership forms a complete circle to which there is no beginning point or ending point. No matter how the wheel is turned, the spokes are always seen and may be grasped at any time. Likewise, Jesus’ characteristics are always in full view and are available to us for the asking, as long as we hold on to them and believe in Him. Nevertheless, there is one major difference between Jesus’ PURE leadership and the helm of a ship. Although, the helm powers a ship, it is absolutely worthless without the captain. Fortunately for us, we only need Christ because He is truly our “all in all.”

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