Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People remains one of the most influential leadership books in recent times. Though things have changed somewhat since he published it in 1989, his conclusions regarding leadership trends in America continue to carry weight. Covey concluded that the prior 50-years of American leadership literature was primarily concerned with superficial, quick fixes. However, the unanimous trend in American leadership literature during the first 150-years of our nation’s history was primarily on character ethics.
The biblical ethic of leadership, from which that 150-years of literature sprung off of, placed a high premium on leading by example. The same remains true today, at least anecdotally. Teachers who love and respect their students bring out the best in their students. Military leaders who “walk the talk” in the heat of battle garner the loyalty of their subordinates for a lifetime. The coach who is most concerned with putting the team first and his or her personal glory last not only produce better players but better citizens.
This type of leadership comes straight out of the heart of God. Peter penned, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care…not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2-3).”
Has there ever been a better earthly leader than Jesus Christ? He is the ultimate example of shepherd leadership. Though being God, he humbled himself by coming down to earth. He did not give into the temptation to take his own glory for himself, rather his glory was bestowed upon him by his Father in Heaven. He did not seek to pacify or compromise for political power, but held his integrity despite intense opposition. He laid down his life for his sheep, dying on the cruel cross. He paid the price for their sins, so that they would be set free from sin and death.
None of us will ever lead like Jesus. Our own sinful temptations for power, prestige, and wealth will ever hamper our leadership. The best leaders realize their sinful drivers and humble themselves enough to cling to Christ. They learn from him not by trying harder to be like him, but by submitting to Christ’s leadership, ever learning from Christ. Even in their successes, they do not boast in themselves but give praise to God.
The best shepherd leaders are under shepherds. They place themselves under the shepherding leadership of the Great Shepherd. The more leaders who do this, the better the world will be.
- Identify your sinful temptations in leadership.
- Ask Christ to crucify these temptations.
- Ask Christ to grow your heart for those you lead, since he has showed you the way with his love for you.
- Rejoice that you are following in the footsteps of your Chief Shepherd.