It’s always been interesting to me to see where people go for advice and guidance. The Bible states throughout to seek “wise” counsel. Now, if you asked me for secular advice on how to live life, I would tell you to go buy the TV series The Andy Griffith Show. Andy taught many good lessons to Opie, and several to Barney. If you asked me for secular advice on business management, you might be surprised. I would tell you not to read the bestselling business books. I would tell you to read the Bible. God tells us not only how to succeed in our spiritual and family life; he tells us how to succeed in business.
I think that sometimes, telling a biblical story in a secular manner makes sense in a business context. If I were explaining the wisdom of Jesus’s leadership, I might share it as follows:
Let me tell you a story about a great leader. He met with two hardworking brothers who had a successful business. He said to them, “Join my business and I will teach you how to succeed at a much higher level.” They marveled at his training and his personality. He seemed to have expansive capabilities. He was brilliant and sought out by the top leaders, but he would go out of his way to spend time with the lowest guy in the organization. He was kind but could be fierce with competition. He was gentle and caring, yet strong and cunning. After three years of his leadership training they asked him, “When you become Chairman, can my brother and I become President and CEO?” He looked at them and said, “No, boys you just don’t get it.”
Of course, you know my leader’s name is Jesus. The brothers were James and John who had a fishing business. He told them to come, follow him and he would make them fishers of men. In that short sentence much is said. He called them to action—now, immediately. He told them to follow him and he would change them (a drastic change from the selfishness of the human condition to that of serving others). The final statement set their mission. They would be at work on something much more important than their own desires.
Now back to the story. When the two brothers asked for the two top executive positions, the leader warned them about how the leaders of the day operated. How they flaunted their superiority and how the managers exercised authority. He told them, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26–28)
Do you ever wonder why there seem to be few real leaders. The answer is simple. It’s not our human nature to care about others more than our selves. The human condition is one of selfishness. We are born screaming for our needs to be met. Literally! Feed me, change my diaper. Then, as we grow, we are drawn to do things that will get us what we want. Somewhere along life’s path, some of us find these selfish desires ineffective and hollow. There seems to be something missing and we go looking for something to fill that void. Many of us look for a leader to follow. In my case, thank God (literally), I found Jesus.
A key to leadership is being an example to those who work for you and those you work with. This simply means, people will do what you do. Our actions will always tell our intent and what we value. If it’s “all about me,” everyone on my team will adopt the same attitude. When everyone is “in it for themselves,” there is less teamwork, less effort and fewer results. For those who follow Jesus’s teaching on serving, it’s a different story. Sometimes you see a team where the individuals find more value in the success of the team and their teammates than themselves. They take on leadership without being asked. They look for ways to bring success not only to the team, but to the organization as a whole. They serve anywhere and everywhere they can. They are the highest performing individuals and teams. What’s happening here? They’re just doing what their leader is doing.
Jesus tells us we should be high performers both at home and at work. How amazing is it that the greatest success comes from focusing on helping others succeed rather than ourselves. For me, he is a leader worth following and emulating.