So, what do you do? You’ve probably been asked this question, especially in a new setting. We usually answer with a job or other title. You’re called Doctor if you have a medical or doctorate degree, while titles like President, Director, or Chief of Staff may define your role in a work setting. Titles are used to define social rank or status (i.e. eldest child, single, married, etc.), qualifications, or positions in organizational hierarchies. While titles are useful, and serve a function, they can change or vary depending on circumstances such as a promotion or marital status change.
Titles aren’t permanent and, more importantly, don’t really define who we are, our purpose or beliefs. But we can get so caught up in our title that we risk losing our identity. According to HumanGrowthLab.com:
“Defining yourself is basically the idea of knowing who you are, what you stand for, what your identity is, what rules you stand by, and so on. This could be morals you live by, what you define as integrity, how important your word is to you, what you consider to be good and bad things, your beliefs and more.”
“Psychologists use ‘enmeshment’ to describe situations where the boundaries between people become blurred, and individual identities lose importance. Enmeshment prevents the development of a stable, independent sense of self (Harvard Business Review, 2019).” In other words, we get so wrapped up in our role that we forget who we are.
Jesus had more than 50 titles used to describe Him including Master, Teacher, and Rabbi. But, He didn’t allow these to define Him or His purpose; perhaps because they were too limiting. Jesus used titles more reflective of His purpose such as the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Living Water, and the Way, Truth and Life.
We can appreciate the meaning, beauty and power of these terms, but they aren’t roles that we can easily adopt or align our leadership style with. Jesus was very deliberate with the words He used. He didn’t want to waste words or time with titles or roles that we can’t relate to, instead He modeled behaviors we could emulate, especially regarding our leadership roles. Jesus describes the role of the leader as that of a servant who places the needs of others above themselves. However, He often described Himself as “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11-18, ERV), perhaps because it is a role (then and now) that we can easily relate to.
The shepherd is responsible for feeding his flock and providing them care, protection and security. BibleVersesPro.com, “The 12 Characteristics of a Shepherd in the Bible”, describes the shepherd’s character as compassionate, protective, loving, caring, humble, hardworking, sacrificial, boundary setter, trustworthy, sets example (models), and committed. As leaders, our ability to lead and influence isn’t determined by the title we hold; but how we fulfill our responsibilities and how we carry ourselves; our character.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, he described a nation where his children would be judged by the “content of their character.” The content of a leader’s character emanates from the heart. In Psychology Today (2016), Psychologist Gregg Henriques, PhD, explains that the content of character:
“refers to the core ethical values of honesty and integrity, respecting others, taking responsibility for one’s actions, being fair and just, and being someone who promotes love and compassion in others (emphasis added). We can also think about the content of character in terms of core virtues and the extent to which one embodies wisdom, humility, courage, justice, temperance, and the value of human dignity.”
Don’t they sound like the qualities of a “good shepherd?” Aren’t these the qualities Jesus possessed and modeled? Aren’t these qualities you’d like to see in your leaders? Guess what, the people you lead want to see them also!
According to Spirit and Truth (2013): “What we do is the result of what we hold and think upon in our hearts.” One of the great lessons Jesus taught his followers is that a man’s or woman’s character is always a matter of his or her heart. Simply stated, character matters, not just because it demonstrates what is in our heart, but because it’s the foundation for everything that follows (i.e. Head, Hands and Habit).
Challenge: Over the past two months, we’ve explored the importance of aligning our heart with God’s purpose and how love prepares our heart for what God has planned for us. As we continue our exploration of the domains of leading Like Jesus, Proverbs 2:10 (CSB) reminds us of its natural progression:
“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will delight you.”
Next month, we will continue building upon our knowledge of the first domain (the Heart) by exploring the role of the Head. Won’t you join us?
Learn more about having a heart like Jesus in our Heart of a Great Leader Study Guide.