Leading like Jesus: 7 timeless principles for modern success

Apr 5, 2024

Reading time: 8 Minutes

Jesus walking beside a disciple

The sun reflected off the surface of the water as the weathered hands of two fisherman worked their nets hoping for a good catch to support their meager living. The Sea of Galilee was a hard taskmaster.  



The local weather was dynamic with hot summertime temperatures, cool winter temperatures and wind-driven rainy seasons that could change the scene with little notice. This weather combination, along with tough physical labor meant these two fishermen were hardened by the realities of the harsh environment around them.  



Peter and Andrew were unlikely candidates for a typical ministerial position. To our knowledge, they had no previous ministry experience. No stated desire for the ministry. No seminary training. However, Peter and Andrew, with no prior experience or aspirations for ministry roles, were about to embark on a journey of leadership and transformation, offering applicable lessons to all of us. 



Imagine the monumental moment when Jesus, walking by on the shore, called out to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They only knew of fishing for actual fish, but this new call to disciple people came seemingly out of nowhere. There was nothing random about Jesus’ selection. He knew who He was going to call long before they ever heard His voice. Jesus called them, and they responded, along with ten others to make up the group of twelve unlikely disciples.  



It begs the question, how did this twelve-man ragtag group, formerly fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, a physician, and tradesmen become dynamic ministers willing to serve and follow Jesus? Surely the call of the Master was the starting point and over the course of just a few years these unqualified men developed into mature disciples ready to carry the gospel forward after Jesus’ ascension. They were equipped to “Go and make disciples.”  



The Gospels are more than a historical account; they are a masterclass in transformative leadership, from which we can draw timeless lessons. As we examine the Gospels, there are seven ways that Jesus equipped these twelve to achieve success.  



1. Jesus Led by Example


Biblical Proof: "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." - John 13:15 (ESV) 



Jesus consistently led by example. His willingness to wash the feet of His disciples showed humility and a desire to serve. He wanted to set an example for His disciples during His time on earth.  



Modern Day Application: Just as Jesus showed both humility and a willingness to serve, we should demonstrate the behaviors and attitudes we wish to see from others. Over time you will notice that your team reflects your behavior. Simply stated, model the behavior you desire to see from those that you lead. They will learn more from observing you than you could ever teach them verbally.  



Reflect on your daily interactions: In what ways can you demonstrate servant leadership in your own circle of influence this week? 



2. Jesus Made the Investment of Time



Biblical Proof: “Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them… - Mark 9:30-31 (NLT)



Jesus wanted to spend time teaching His most loyal followers. He had a goal, not just to make disciples out of them, but to empower them to be disciple makers. So, He spent time and energy teaching, training, and connecting with them. 



Modern Day Application: Whether you are leading a team at work or leading your family at home, this point is vital. The time that you invest in connecting with and teaching others will be some of the best investments you make in your life. Your availability must go beyond times when you are passing along commands. The strongest leaders connect in relational ways and know the value of their time using it wisely to build up, train, encourage, and cast vision.  



Reflect on your daily interactions: Are you carving out time to connect with those around you in a meaningful way?  



3. Jesus Delegated and Empowered Collaboration



Biblical Proof:  And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. - Mark 6:7 (ESV)  



Jesus knew that delegation, empowerment, and collaboration would have a greater reach and effect. He made clear to them what their level of authority was, properly communicating and delegating duties to each disciple. He also chose to send them out two by two for collaboration and support.  



Modern Day Application: You may be a great leader, but you cannot possibly do it all yourself. In fact, a lack of delegation shows a lack of maturation in leadership abilities. Learning how to properly delegate authority and decision-making in a measured way is important. It will expand your capacity because you will not have to be involved in every decision. It will also serve to grow the decision-making abilities of those you empower.  



Jesus set the stage for collaboration when he sent them out two by two. Find ways to foster this kind of environment for your teams. Your team will grow in effort, output, creativity, and knowledge through the process.



Reflect on your daily interactions: Do you find yourself consistently “doing it yourself” or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work on your plate? What could you delegate this week to free up some time? 


4. Jesus Revealed His Heart and Passion


Biblical Proof:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. - John 13:34 (ESV)


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Jesus was clearly on the mission of all missions to save humanity from their sinful nature. However, what he exemplified during his 3 ½ years of ministry was his willingness to talk about His mission, share His heart and let others see what He was most passionate about.  



Modern Day Application: Let others see your heart. Showing passion and enthusiasm about your vision will inspire others to elevate and take on new levels of contribution. Typically, new projects or endeavors bring a higher level of enthusiasm. If it has been a while since you last felt excited about what you and/or your team are entrusted with, it might be time for a reboot.  



Reflect on your daily interactions: Do you feel the enthusiasm you and your team used to have fading? Find new ways to recast your vision and re-energize your team.  



5. Jesus Used Relatable Stories (Parables)


Biblical Proof: “He spoke to them in parables…” – Mark 4:2 (ESV) 



Jesus masterfully used stories to teach complex ideas through illustrations that resonated with His audience. Whether it was the Parable of the Sower explaining the Kingdom of God or the Parable of the Good Samaritan teaching about neighborly love, Jesus knew the power of storytelling.  



Modern Day Application: Like Jesus, we should recognize the importance of storytelling in communicating our visions and values. Stories can be a powerful tool to convey messages in a way that statistics and directives cannot. When you share personal stories or relevant anecdotes that illustrate your points, you not only capture your team’s attention, but also inspire and motivate them, fostering a culture of shared values and objectives.  



Reflect on your daily interactions: Do I relate to my audience in effective ways?  



6. Jesus Fostered a Visionary Mindset


Biblical Proof:  "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." - Matthew 17:20 (ESV) 



This passage highlights Jesus' emphasis on faith and vision, encouraging His disciples to think beyond the immediate and tangible, to envision what could be accomplished through faith. Jesus consistently challenged them to see beyond their current circumstances and believe in God’s calling on their lives. 



Modern Day Application: We should foster a visionary mindset within our teams. It's about encouraging them to understand the larger impact of their work. When people grasp the "why" behind their efforts, they are more motivated and engaged. Creating a culture that values vision and faith in each other's capabilities can transform the way they approach problems, innovate, and push boundaries. 



Reflect on your daily interactions: Are we always focused on the here and now or the current tyranny of the urgent? Or do we dream big and encourage others to believe in achieving new and exciting things? 


7. Jesus Led with Empathy and Love


Biblical Proof:  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." - John 15:9 (ESV) 



Jesus spoke truth in love. Ultimately His love was so strong that it drove Him to the cross. He was the ultimate example of compassion. 



Modern Day Application:  Lead with the same love and compassion that Jesus did, creating a motivating and nurturing environment. Show that you care about the person, not just his or her role. True empathy builds loyalty, encourages comradery, and fosters growth.  



Reflect on your daily interactions: Have I recently expressed appreciation and love for those I lead? Do I regularly exemplify empathy? 





As we reflect on these seven ways Jesus equipped His disciples, let us challenge ourselves: How can we apply these principles to not only lead but also empower those around us?  



Let this be a call to action, to lead with humility, invest time in others, empower collaboration, share our vision passionately, teach through storytelling, foster a visionary mindset, and above all, lead with empathy and love. 



Also seen on the Christian Post.

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