Suit Up & Press On
My life and journey to the Lord, and the co-founding of our Lead Like Jesus ministry, is a testimony to the truth of Ephesians 2:10.
"For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."Ephesians 2:10
As I look back, it is easy for me to see God’s hand in my life long before I accepted Jesus as my Savior, my Teacher, and my Bridge to the Lord. Even though my middle name is Hartley—named after Bob Hartley, a Presbyterian minister my mom and dad loved—my faith was not central to my life over the years. Being an idealist when I was young, I saw too much hypocrisy in churches to take my faith seriously. Everyone seemed to talk a good game on Sunday but did not seem to live it during the week. During my nine years in college—leading to a Ph.D. in educational leadership—as well as my ten years as a college administrator and teacher at Ohio University and the University of Massachusetts, God was not a big player in my life. This continued through my sabbatical leave to San Diego, where my wife Margie and I decided to stay and start our own leadership training and consulting company.
It wasn’t until the publication of The One Minute Manager nationally in 1982 that I began to think about God. That book was so amazingly successful in such a short period of time that even I had trouble taking credit for its success. I began to think that somehow it was a “God thing.”
Opening my mind to that possibility, the Lord began to send all kinds of believers into my life, starting with my longtime friend and colleague Phil Hodges. Phil and I had met on the bus going to orientation camp at Cornell University in 1957. He had turned his life over to the Lord a few years before, and ever since, he’d been praying for me. When he heard about the success of The One Minute Manager, Phil called and said, “Ken, let’s take a walk on the beach.” During our walk he said, “Why do you think this book is so successful? Do you think you are smarter or a better writer than other people?” I said, “No, Phil. I think somehow God is involved.”
Phil was delighted with my answer and began to give me Christian publications to read. But I was slow to commit. However, the Lord kept on sending me people who pushed me closer to Him, like Norman Vincent Peale, with whom I coauthored The Power of Ethical Management. Right from the beginning Norman said to me, “Ken, the Lord’s always had you on His team; you just haven’t suited up yet.”
My journey continued and was further impacted by Bob Buford, author of Halftime, and Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago.
"I’ll never forget when I told Bob Buford that the big thing I objected to in Christianity was the belief that we are all sinners."Ken Blanchard
I didn’t like that for two reasons. First of all, I hate labels. And I’m sure if you tell someone, “You are a sinner,” that person won’t say, “Thanks for sharing.” More likely, they’ll get upset and attack back: “Oh, yeah? What about you?”
Second, I just couldn’t fathom the concept of original sin. “Why do we have to start off bad?” I asked Bob. It was hard for me to imagine why a baby in a crib would already be a sinner.
The Price has been Paid
Bob, in his gentle Texas style, answered, “Ken, do you think you’re as good as God?”
“Obviously not,” I said. “If there is a God, that’s perfection.”
“Okay, then, why don’t we give God 100,” said Bob. “We’ll give ax murderers 5 and Mother Teresa 95—she’s a pretty good gal. I’ll give you 75 or 80, Ken. After all, you’re trying to help people. The great gift of God is that he sent Jesus down to earth to make up the difference between us and 100.” That really got to me. If you asked someone, “Where are you on the scale of 1 to 100?” no one would say they were at 100. But if you call them a sinner, they will get their back up. I thought, “What a wonderful way to talk about grace.”
Then Bill Hybels said to me, “Blanchard, I don’t know why you didn’t sign up for the Lord a lot sooner, because you get three consultants for the price of one. You get the Father who started it, the Son who lived it, and the Holy Spirit as your day-to-day operational manager.” That certainly was talking my language. With my new spiritual team of Hodges, Peale, Buford, and Hybels, I finally couldn’t deny the power of God’s grace and the gift that He offers us. I suited up for the Lord.
When I turned my life over to the Lord in the late 1980s, I began to read the Bible. As a behavioral scientist, I went straight to the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and the book of Acts, because I wanted to know what Jesus did. As I studied those books, I became fascinated with how Jesus transformed twelve ordinary and unlikely people into the first generation of leaders of a movement that continues to affect the course of world history some two thousand years later.
I’ll never forget how John Ortberg expressed Jesus’s powerful impact on history when we were doing a Lead Like Jesus session together in Atlanta. I asked John, who is senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, why he would fly across the country to tell people that Jesus was the greatest leadership role model of all time. Ortberg smiled and said to the crowd, “Suppose you were a gambler 2100 years ago. Which of these would you have put your money on lasting longer: The Roman Empire with the Roman army, or a little Jewish rabbi with twelve inexperienced followers?” He went on to say, “It’s interesting that today we still name kids Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and we name our dogs Nero and Caesar. I rest my case.”
The Greatest Leadership Role Model
I realized that Jesus was the greatest leadership role model when I was reading the Bible. As I read the Gospels, I understood that everything I had ever taught or written about effective leadership during the past twenty-five years, Jesus did to perfection, beyond my ability to portray or describe. I saw that as Christians, we have more in Jesus than just a great spiritual leader; we have a practical and effective leadership model for all organizations, for all people, for all situations.
I was surprised when I found out that the leadership role Jesus modeled wasn’t being taught in divinity schools or churches. That was when I suddenly realized what the good works were that God had planned for the rest of my life. He had given me fame and recognition with the development of Situational Leadership® II and The One Minute Manager—concepts I had co-developed before I had accepted Jesus into my life—so that people would listen to me when I argued that Jesus is the greatest leadership role model of all time. And God knows we need a different leadership role model. We have seen the negative effects of self-serving leaders in every sector of society in our country as well as around the world.
Realizing that Jesus was the greatest leadership role model led me to cofound, with Phil Hodges, the Lead Like Jesus ministry. The purpose of the ministry is to inspire and equip people to lead like Jesus and to follow His mandate to be servant leaders. The goal of our ministry is “seven billion souls served daily by the impact of people leading like Jesus.” We are following the mandate to make disciples of all nations.
People are listening! With God’s help Lead Like Jesus is now in forty nations around the world. In Singapore a few years ago, I participated in training 150 people from nine countries. We now have a Lead Like Jesus Society in India with over thirty trainers spreading the Good Word there. Last fall, we trained 2,000 people in Uganda who now are spreading the Word all over Africa.
God is good. He was preparing me to do these good works around the world way before I knew Him in my life. He has a great plan for all of our lives, and He had it in mind even before we were born.
Do you know God’s great plans for you? Seek the Lord with all your heart and watch Him work in your life. God bless as you follow Him and do His good works!
By: Ken Blanchard
In addition to being a renowned speaker, consultant, and bestselling author, Ken Blanchard currently serves as the Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. His book The One Minute Manager has sold over 13 million copies and has been translated into 37 languages. He has coauthored over 30 other best selling books, including Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service, Leadership & The One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership, and Gung Ho! Turn On The People In Any Organization.Read More Articles by Ken Blanchard