In the US, September begins with Labor Day, “an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers.” We celebrate with parades, festivals, and parties, often using pictures of “hands” to illustrate solidarity, friendship (i.e., AFL-CIO, etc.) or “hand tools” like wrenches, hammers, and paintbrushes to represent industries. In Lead Like Jesus Revisited (2016), Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges and Phyllis Hendry remind us of the importance of “hands” as more than symbolical to a leadership philosophy:
“Hands provide a powerful symbol of the doing aspect of leading like Jesus. The Bible is filled with vivid images of Jesus’ hands at work. With His hands, Jesus healed the sick, cleansed lepers, fed the hungry, overturned the tables of money changers, washed the feet of his disciples. And hung from a cross to save sinful human beings.”
These two perspectives provide a framework for understanding the true motivation underlying the “Hands” domain of leading like Jesus. The first treats work as a means of bringing attention to ourselves, celebrating “our achievements.” This perspective, a self-serving approach, uses work as a means to bring glory to our accomplishments and ourselves. In contrast to this approach, Jesus’ use of His to serve others. Jesus explains that the role of a leader is that of a servant (Mark 42-43, VOICE). Jesus used His hands not to glorify Himself but to bring glory to God.
Both the self-serving and servant leadership philosophies are results oriented, but their motivation is vastly different. The former leadership style is self-serving. Leaders using this perspective see their current job, and the people they work with, as tools for achieving their ambitions. Their motivation is to achieve results, often at the expense of others, for the reward, recognition or promotion that achieving results bring and to garner attention for themselves. However, the latter leadership style focuses on the leader as a servant to those they lead. Servant leaders focus on developing others, ensuring the resources needed are available, and ensuring accountability. It isn’t that these leaders lack ambition, instead they understand that success occurs when others are aligned and committed to achieving the desired results. The Lead Like Jesus leadership model expands the meaning of “hands” to include not only the deeds or acts that we perform but also the roles that we assume in service to others, especially as leaders. As 1 Corinthians 10:24 (VOICE) explains:
“We should stop looking out for our own interests and instead focus on the people living and breathing around us.”
You may be thinking that some people are very adept in concealing their true motivation. They can convince us that they are serving us, and it is in our best interest to achieve the desired results. These leaders can give the appearance of being servant leaders, while pursuing their self-interests. The truth is that they may be successful in fooling us, but this form of deceit will be their downfall. They sometimes forget that “God sees the motive behind the action.” Jeremiah 17:10 (TLB) tells us:
“Only the Lord knows! He searches all hearts and examines deepest motives so he can give to each person his right reward, according to his deeds—how he has lived.”
In “The Heart Led Leader,” author Tommy Spaulding explains “defining your leadership philosophy is one of the most important steps you can take as a leader. Your philosophy filters every thought and action you take as a leader. He further explains that “terms like passion, commitment, servant leadership, purpose-driven, and mission-driven all represent a leadership style anchored in “love;” a deep caring about serving others.
Love, as defined by Spaulding, is a recurring theme not only throughout all four Lead Like Jesus leadership domains; but, more importantly, throughout the Bible (John 3:16, Mark 12:28-34, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Romans 5:8, and John 15:9-17). Love is foundational to our relationship with God and each other. When we serve each other, we model the example of self-sacrifice that embodies Jesus’ commandment to love each other as ourselves. As M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled, states:
“There is no act of love that is not an act of work or courage. No exceptions.”
The Lead Like Jesus leadership model for the heart and head domains are internal processes that are manifested through our hands and habits; but more importantly, through the things that we do and the things that we say. Colossians 3:17 (VOICE) commands that:
“Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.”
Challenge: Reflect on the leadership styles discussed throughout this article. How can you apply them to the following verse:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)