A common barrier to embracing Jesus as a leadership role model lies in skepticism about the relevance of His teaching to your specific leadership situations. We are, in many ways, faced with the same questions that Peter faced when Jesus asked him to do some highly unusual and unorthodox things regarding his fishing business.
Here was the situation as described in Luke 5:1–11:
"One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon [Peter], its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets, and you will catch many fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing! But if you say so, we’ll try again.” And this time their nets were so full they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “O, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the size of their catch, as were the others with him. His partners James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.”Luke 5:1–11 (NLT)
What do you think was going through Peter’s mind when he replied, “Master, we have been fishing all night and we haven’t caught a thing?” It sounds like he might have been thinking something along the lines of this: “I have been listening to Jesus address the crowds with great power and wisdom. I really respect Him as a teacher and for His knowledge of God’s Word, but now He has asked me to do something that goes totally against my own knowledge and instincts about how to run my business. He doesn’t know fishing. I know fish and fishing; it’s my business, and this is not a practical plan. If I do what He says, it is probably going to be a waste of time and energy, and my workers are going to wonder if I have lost my mind.”
Peter’s skepticism, however, did not prevent him from taking a leap of faith because of who gave him the instructions. Because of his faith, he experienced miraculous results, and he was overwhelmed by what he perceived was too great a gap between himself and what Jesus would require of him. Jesus sought to calm Peter’s doubts and fears and issued an invitation to come and be transformed for a higher purpose. And He is issuing the same call to us. Jesus knows fish. He also knows your business, whether it is in the service of an organization or in a life role.
One way of putting Jesus to the test would be to apply the same criteria to His knowledge, experience, and success that you would to the hiring of a business consultant. Take a few minutes and consider if you would hire Jesus as your leadership consultant based on His earthly experience.
To help you in this decision-making process, reflect on the following leadership challenges you might be facing, and then ask yourself, “Does Jesus have any relevant practical knowledge or experience in dealing with the following types of leadership issues I face day to day?”
Decide YES or NO for the following:
- Working with or living and caring for imperfect people.
- Taking time to train, develop, and delegate.
- Under constant scrutiny and testing of commitment and integrity.
- Required to handle rejection, criticism, and opposition.
- Facing fierce competition and conflicting demands from friends and foes.
- Tempted by instant gratification, recognition, and misuse of power.
- Facing serious personnel issues, including turnover and betrayal.
- Required to communicate in a multicultural environment.
- The need to challenge the status quo and hierarchy to bring about change.
- The need to communicate a radically new vision of the future.
- The need to call attention to poor leadership at great personal risk.
- The need to put career or relationships on the line to serve a higher purpose.
Chances are you answered “yes” to every situation. Why? Because Jesus had experience in every situation you face. The book of Hebrews says of Jesus,
“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”Hebrews 2:18
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive every mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:15–16
In addition to His leadership resume, Jesus understood from years of personal experience the challenges of daily life and work. Although Jesus was God, He was not ashamed to do a man’s work. He spent the first thirty years of His life on earth as a workingman—the carpenter of Nazareth. We can never sufficiently realize the wonder of the fact that Jesus understands a day’s work and knows the difficulty of making ends meet. He knows the frustration of ill-mannered customers and clients who won’t pay their bills. He knows the difficulties of living in an ordinary home and in a big family, and He knows the problems that beset us in the everyday world.
Think about how Jesus would do your job differently than you would. As the following scriptures suggest, Jesus wants to do His work in you and through you:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28–29
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”John 15:5
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”John 15:7
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”John 14:15–18
Pause and Reflect
If you are skeptical about adopting Jesus as your leadership role model, write down your reasons. What is it about Jesus that is causing you to doubt? What is it about you that is causing you to hold back?
Ken Blanchardcurrently serves as the Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. In addition to being a renowned speaker, consultant, and best-selling author, his book The One Minute Manager has sold over 13 million copies and has been translated into 37 languages. He has co-authored over 30 other best selling books.
Phil Hodges, co-founder of Lead Like Jesus, served as a human resource and industrial relations manager in corporate America for 36 years with Xerox Corporation and U.S. Steel. In 1997, he served as a Consulting Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies where he had responsibilities in leadership and customer service programs.Read More Articles by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges