NOTE:  At the start of the year, we published a list of nine “core principles” around the notion of Leading Like Jesus. The article got a lot of reader feedback – all positive – so we decided to probe deeper by focusing on each principle individually in subsequent issues of The Catholic Leader. In this issue we focus on Core Principle 7. 

By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

Director, Yeshua Institute

In our last two installments, we focused on Servant Leadership (S1) and Steward Leadership (S2),

  • The basis for servant leadership is the realization that “It’s not about me.”
  • The basis for steward leadership is realization that “It’s not mine” – that all, beginning with our own lives, is on loan from God.

Shepherd Leadership (S3) is the conviction that “People are precious.”

In healthy families we generally recognize how precious people are – especially children. But that’s often not true in other venues, especially the work world. St. John Paul II frequently warned against the practice of reducing the value of people to their ability to produce.

He insisted that the helpless newborn and the helpless old person -- perhaps crippled, bed-ridden and afflicted by dementia -- had as much dignity and worth as the most valuable and competent professional in the world. The value of people, he explained, was derived from God’s unconditional love for each and every one of them, not from how much they earn or accumulate.

No doubt you recall that Jesus said we should love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s a tall order because the natural urge is to look out for ourselves first.

But parents, for example, know what it means to love a child so much that you would gladly give your life to spare theirs.

It’s not likely most of us are willing or able to do that for anyone and everyone. But it happens sometimes when people sacrifice their own lives to save strangers. And of course we are challenged to keep trying to be unselfish.

In any event, when we interact with others we are actually interacting with their Creator. For as Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mat. 25:40).

We can’t always be indulging people – indeed, we shouldn’t try. Serving and loving others is not about indulging their every whim or whine. It’s about looking out for their genuine good, their long-term development and maturity.

As Ken Blanchard, author of the best-selling business book The One Minute Manager and co-founder of the Lead Like Jesus Movement, notes, wise employers make the development of their people part of their primary purpose.

Indeed, since so much of life unfolds as self-fulfilling prophecies, when we assume the best about people, treat them with respect and try to help them maximize their skills, it usually turns out that they contribute mightily to the common good.

No matter what the circumstances, we can – and should -- treat all people with respect and accord them their God-given dignity. Even if it turns out that the fit between an employer and an employee is not a good one, employers can and should do all they can to help their people find good, long-term fits.