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Pastor Michael J. Brooks: Leading like Jesus

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Michael J. Brooks - Reflections

Michael J. Brooks

I sat with an interviewing group a few years ago and fielded a bevy of questions. One caught me a bit off-guard.

"What kind of leader are you?" someone asked.

I think I gave a credible response, but I wish I'd been expecting the question and had the luxury to think through it.

Ken Blanchard wrote a book entitled, "Lead Like Jesus." As Christians, Christ is our highest model in all things. How did Jesus lead?

First, he instilled confidence in his followers. To a ragtag group of disciples he said, "You are the salt of the earth" and "you are the light of the world." These men were anything but world-class influencers, but Jesus saw their latent abilities and sought to inspire them to match their potential.

Leaders bring out the best in others. They coach team members to reach goals and to excel in their tasks.

I've heard parents do this. They say to their children, "You did a super job!" or "You're a wonderful helper!" Affirmation brings inspiration.

Second, Jesus gave his followers a clear task. In the parlance of modern business, he was a "vision-caster." And the vision was to take the gospel to the whole world. Think of this — a world without radio or TV, automobiles, telephones or printing presses. But the goal was clear.

Teachers of leadership today talk about the "elevator speech." That is, one should be able to share personal or organizational goals in 30 seconds, as though riding an elevator with another person and having only a short time to talk. Goals must be known and shared.

Third, Jesus spoke sternly when necessary. As Robert Schuller pointed out years ago, Jesus never called a sinner a "sinner." He called sinners "friends," but he called the callous religious leaders "sinners." It was this group who refused to listen and sought to marginalize Jesus. As one commentator noted, they were religious men, but their religion had "gone bad" on them.

Good leaders must sometimes offer criticism. It's part of the job, though a part few of us relish. If the team member did something willfully and deliberately bad, then the leader speaks sternly. If the team member made a simple mistake, the wise leader offers an honest assessment with suggestions for improvement.

One leadership teacher proposed the "criticism sandwich" in which the leader sandwiches the criticism between two compliments. This is a good way to prevent the offender from being unduly discouraged.

Fourth, a good leader, unlike Jesus, admits personal wrong. None of us is infallible and we do make bad calls from time-to-time. Wise leaders know that their credibility is enhanced when they own up to wrong and ask for another chance.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.