Western culture has segregated Jesus Christ to the religious realm, denying him entrance into the world of organizational management. I believe, however, that—apart from one’s religious view of Jesus—his life exhibits the traits of a global leader and that his example as a leader provides valuable insights that leaders today can incorporate to the benefit of today’s global organizations.
Jesus ignited a movement that would encompass the entire Mediterranean world in less than 100 years (Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:5-6) . By the time Constantine converted to Christianity, scholars estimate that Christians numbered between ten and twelve million, about one-tenth the population of the Roman Empire. The magnitude of his global leadership continues to grow today after 2000 years. His strategy was global in scope and he continues to be a model for global leadership today. Jesus is, therefore, a source of functional leadership wisdom—wisdom that is practicable for today’s leadership challenges.
By using corporate leadership models as a lens through which to read the ancient sayings of Jesus and narrations about activities, I hope to juxtapose ideas that are not usually related with one another and shed fresh light on those ideas. Jesus is worthy of following, not only as a spiritual guide, but also as a practical role model for global leadership.
The first thing one notices when researching the literature on leadership, is the quantity and variety of theories and definitions. It is easy to become overwhelmed. Some researchers, however, stand out for the quality of their research and the eloquence with which they write. Two such authors are Michael Marquardt and Nancy Berger. In their book, “Global Leadership for the 21st Century,” they describe eight characteristics of a global leader. These are: vision, service, innovation, a global perspective, technological deftness, systems thinking, ethics, and learning.
For this post, I want to consider the first of the eight characteristics: vision.
Was Jesus a Visionary?
There are two components to a good organizational vision: the conceptual structure or mental map and the motivational energy with which people can identify. The first is an aspect of thought; the second is an aspect of speech and communication. Jesus manifested both components. He had a clear vision of a desirable future that drove his ministry and he conveyed that vision to his disciples.
An important goal of Jesus’ vision-casting was to create in the minds of his disciples a new vision of themselves. “You are the salt of the earth,” he told them. “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14). It is unfortunate that few people catch this aspect of Jesus’ vision. For those who take the time to look at what Jesus taught, they will see a vision of a people who are valued and who are united by faith rather than race (John 17:20-21).
Jesus also helped his followers gain a new vision of an old phrase: “The kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:3; 6:10; John 18:36). It was a major change in thinking that took the duration of his ministry to bring about, but Jesus conveyed to his disciples that his kingdom was not a political or military kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom that is percolating throughout the entire world.
Jesus used stories and examples to paint the vision. He envisioned his movement as a process of sowing seeds in a soil of varying degrees of quality (Matthew 13:1-9). He compared the growth of his movement to the growth of a mustard tree (Matthew 13:31-32) and to the infiltrating potency of leaven (Luke 13:21). In the parable of the unrighteous steward he painted the vision of an organization’s judicious use of finances (Luke 16:1-9). Thirty-five percent of Jesus’ teaching was in the form of parables making his use of stories the most characteristic aspect of his vision-casting activity.
Commenting on Jesus’ vision-casting skills, Leighton Ford writes:
“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” (Transforming Leadership, p. 56).
He not only made appeals to the mind, but also to sight and hearing. He told his followers, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear (Matt. 13:13). Jesus could communicate so effectively because he looked at the world not only from the perspective of his religious culture but also from the perspective of those he wanted to influence. His vision-casting capabilities were enhanced by his attitude of service to others.
Jesus passes the first test of global leadership. He was a visionary leader, one who not only saw the vision himself, but was able to create that vision in the minds and hearts of his followers.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.