Was Jesus a Great Leader? (Part I)

Was Jesus a Great Leader? (Part I) by Dr. Greg Waddell

Even if you are not a Christian, I’m sure you have some ideas about Jesus Christ: who he was, what he did, what he said. Christians, of course, worship him as the Son of God and hence see him as very present in their lives today. But what I have found is that most people have little understanding of Jesus as a man. In particular, he is seldom mentioned as a historical model for leadership. So, I got to thinking, what would happen if I took some of the principal attributes that we associate with leadership and applied them to Jesus? How would he measure up? One of the most cited attributes is that leaders are visionaries. Did Jesus have a vision and did he know how to cast that vision for others to see?

What we mean when we say that a leader has vision is a combination of two things:
How the leader THINKS about the future and


Jesus demonstrated both of these components. It is evident throughout the Gospel records that he was driven by a vision for a desirable future and he was a master at communicating that vision to others.

As you read through these documents, you begin to gain a picture of Jesus as constantly in the process of conveying his vision to his disciples. He has a keen sense of how the human mind learns and he continuously works on the mental models that determined people’s understanding. The main focus of that vision had to do with people’s understanding of God and their relationship with Him. But this also included helping others acquire a new vision of themselves.

He said to his followers: “You are the salt of the earth. . . .”You are the light of the world” (NASB, Matt. 5:13-14). It is unfortunate that many believers today fail to pick up on this aspect of Jesus’ vision. In his book, The Age of Paradox, Charles Handy wrote:

I am often tempted to observe that the Christian injunction to love one’s neighbor as oneself gives the neighbor a rather poor deal since few people seem to love or even to like themselves that much.

Jesus also had a vision for a united world community. It would be a community based on faith rather than race. And it would be a community that would no longer require a sacred “place” where its members had to go in order to locate God (John 17:20-21).

Perhaps, the most relevant aspect of his vision in relation to this blog is that he created a new vision of Leadership. After all, he did believe himself to be the Messiah—and many people agreed with him and do so still today (including me). And what is a Messiah? A leader. THE leader of the people of God.

But the common understanding of that role in Jesus’ time was of a great military and political leader. One who would throw off the bonds of Rome once and forever. He spoke of a different kind of kingdom often referring to it as not be OF THIS WORLD (Matthew 5:3; 6:10 John 18:36). Rather than a flash flood, his kingdom would be more like the gurgling of a mountain spring that would gain strength as it flowed down and spread out over the land.

The old view of the Messiah was deeply embedded into even his closest followers and it took him his entire ministry to begin seeing changes in their thinking.

To cast his vision, like a master artist, Jesus used stories and examples to paint then scene of his ideal future in the minds and hearts of his followers. Leighton Fords described this imagery in his book, Transforming Leadership.

Jesus saw history as an arrow shot toward a target, a fire cast on the earth, a lightening-flash across the sky, a door opened to fulfillment, a task that would be completed. A new time had arrived. A new reality had come. He himself embodied that new reality, and he called people to seize it and to follow him. This was his sense of destiny, and this determined his strategy.

Jesus appealed not just to the mind but also to people’s ability to create mental pictures. “Blessed are your eyes,” Jesus told his closest followers, “because they see; and your ears, because they hear (NASB, Matt. 13:13).

So, yes, with regard to the vision dimension, Jesus passes not just barely, but overwhelmingly. All of us could gain useful insights about communicating our vision by studying the life of Christ.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.


Photo, Jesus Christ Superstar by Dianna Augustine and is available at Flickr.com.

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