“Amazing bosses try to make work meaningful and enjoyable for employees,” and they do it primarily by adhering to five rules of thumb, says Harvard Business Review (HBR).
While none of the rules mention the leadership of Jesus, all of them correspond to the way he led and taught his disciples to lead. Here are the five listed by HBR (with our own reflections in italics).
1. Manage individuals, not just teams.
When you’re under pressure, you can forget that employees have varying interests, abilities, goals, and styles of learning. But it’s important to understand what makes each person tick so that you can customize your interactions with them.
Think of how Jesus treated each of his disciples – and the many more people who came to him for help – as each worthy of his focused attention. Even when they deny him or doubt him, he cares about them and looks after them.
2. Go big on meaning.
Inspire people with a vision, set challenging goals, and articulate a clear purpose. Don’t rely on incentives like bonuses, stock options, or raises.
Jesus didn’t have things like bonuses, stock options or raises to offer. When he’s asked just to provide them with positions of prominence, he says that’s above his pay grade. But he does connect his disciples to the highest possible purpose – doing the will of the Father. After his crucifixion, when his vision becomes their vision, they are able to lay down their lives in pursuit of the same mission Jesus gave his life to. Clearly, internal motivations are vastly more powerful than external motivations.
3. Focus on feedback.
Use regular (at least weekly) one-on-one conversations for coaching. Make the feedback clear, honest, and constructive.
When his disciples fail to cure a boy (Mat 17:16), Jesus doesn’t berate them in public. Instead, he meets the immediate needs of the boy and his father. But later, in private, when the disciples ask him why they failed, Jesus tells them very clearly – and yet he reassures them that if they have enough faith, “nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17:19-20)
4. Don’t just talk — listen.
Pose problems and challenges, and then ask questions to enlist the entire team in generating solutions.
Jesus is always asking questions – and listening. For example, when he encounters the mother of James and John, he asks her: “What do you wish?” (Mt 20:21) When she asks Jesus to give them special places at his side in heaven, he asks the two disciples: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mt 20:22). Much later, near the end of his ministry on earth, he confronts Peter by asking him the same question three times – and responding each time to Peter’s answer by telling him to look after Jesus’ sheep. (Jn 21:15-17)
5. Be consistent.
Be consistent in how you respond to people as always deserving respect, but also be consistently open to new ideas in your management style and vision.
Jesus, as we know, was absolutely consistent in his commitment to do the will of the Father and his commitment to develop the leadership aptitude of his disciples. No amount of intimidation or hate could turn him from his mission, and no amount of fear or cowardice on the part of his disciples could entice Jesus to give up on them. We see the power of Jesus’ consistency in the consistent willingness of many of his followers to suffer and die these past two millennia in pursuit of his mission.