Please resist the urge to think this is yet another typical Christmas message. I’m not going to recount the birth of the baby Jesus. I’m not going to tell you about shepherds or wise men. I’m not going to tell you about angels or stars. I do hope to challenge you, a leader, to think about Christmas in a new way this year.
What is leadership? While there are many formal definitions (I’ve seen research that identifies more than 100 unique definitions), when we get right down to what leaders do, I think there are three essentials:
- Serving others—Effective leaders put others first; they are driven but humble
- Setting direction and providing hope—Effective leaders see a compelling picture of the future, communicate that to followers, and give the followers enduring hope that the vision can be achieved
- Making a difference in the world—Effective leaders leave an unmistakable footprint wherever they go, in people’s lives and in the communities they serve
These are the essential responsibilities of leaders that organizations require and that without them, the organization would suffer and die.
What does Christmas have to do with that? First, by “Christmas” I am not referring to Santa Claus and presents under a tree (which is nevertheless fun!). I am not drawing your attention to the fun and festive music (I just can’t stop singing along with the radio!). I am not thinking about eggnog, cookies, or an epic Christmas Eve meal (my mouth is watering now!). For these thoughts, when I say “Christmas” I am referring to the birth of a boy about 2000 years ago, in a little town of a few hundred people. I am referring to the boy who was, and is, and will be the King sitting on an eternal throne.
So what is the connection between Christmas and
- Serving others,
- Setting direction and providing hope, and
- Making a difference in the world?
The connection is Jesus, the baby King:
- Jesus served others—One of the most compelling pictures of Jesus serving others was when he washed his disciples’ feet. You need to understand that foot washing was not only a dirty task, but it was a culturally “low” task. Yet Jesus, God’s son and the leader of what grew to be a vast following, was on his knees before mere men doing the work of the lowliest servant.1 Of course, the ultimate form of Jesus’ service to others was when he submitted himself to be brutally beaten and executed. That selfless action was committed for you!2
- Jesus set direction and provided hope—As a child, some of my favorite stories were when Jesus called a group of young men to follow him on a world-changing journey. He cast a vision for what the future would hold.3 Over time, he helped others develop a deep sense of hope that God indeed had a plan and it was being fulfilled. His “Sermon on the Mount” was truly revolutionary in its day because it was counter-culture, established a visionary picture of what life could be like, and, in concert with the miracle of the loaves and fishes, provided hope for the people.4
- Jesus made a difference in the world—There are 37 miracles recorded in the four biographies of Jesus’ life. Some miracles demonstrated his control over the physical realm (nature), but most of them directly impacted peoples’ lives with healing and even resurrection. Did he make a difference in those lives? Certainly, but did Jesus have a larger impact? Most definitely. Jesus spent three years training a group of 12 men to go and change the world. In his last words to those leaders, he gave them the charge to travel the world and teach his love and life everywhere. It spread like wildfire and what God ordains has been the dominant force for good in the world ever since.
Jesus is the link between Christmas and leadership.
You are a leader. When you serve others, think of the baby Jesus. When you set direction and provide hope for others, think of the baby Jesus. When you are trying to make a difference in the world, think of the baby Jesus.
The King is born! Merry Christmas!
1: Learn more about this event in John 13:1-20.
2: Read the crucifixion story in John 18-19.
3: See Matthew 4:18-25 and John 1:35-51.
4: Matthew 5-7.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo by amber dawn pullin. Available at Flickr.com.