Taking the Guesswork Out of Leadership
We begin each day with a degree of certainty and consistency. The sun will rise in the east and set in the west. The oceans tide will ebb and flow throughout the day, and the earth will circumnavigate the sun. We long for this same level of certainty and consistency in all aspects of our lives; especially leadership but are often disappointed. The failure of many leadership models isn’t that they lack strategies, it’s not because we don’t have the skill set needed; rather we lose focus on consistently modeling the way. We start to focus not on what things should be done but how they should be done and what others should believe or do. John Maxwell, renowned leadership expert, explains the critical function that leaders play:
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Leaders create bonds of trust and expectation. You have probably experienced or heard of leaders whose talk doesn’t align with their behaviors. A leader does more than model behavior; they create and reinforce social norms and rituals with those they lead. Consistency is crucial to our credibility and effectiveness as leaders. Research, conducted by Matt J. Rossano, Southeastern Louisiana University, on the transmission of social norms show that even when parents’ actions were not consistent with their behaviors, their credibility was questioned even by children as young as 3 years old.
Jesus was effective as a leader, especially with His disciples, because He not only modeled behaviors but created rituals of the qualities and behaviors of prayer, faith, forgiveness, compassion, serving others, and humility. He didn’t have to change His behaviors to match a situation. He was able to consistently model these behaviors and rituals because they were a part of His nature.
Jesus saw the sick and compassion led to healing. He saw sin and offered forgiveness. He prayed and gave thanks in all things, always. On the evening He was betrayed, Jesus rose from the table and washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus knew that His words were enough, but His actions spoke louder. After washing their feet, He said (John 15-17, NLT):
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”
How important was this act? Today, the ritual of washing feet is practiced in many faiths as an expression of humility, love and service to others. Rossano, cited above, explains the importance of ritual.
“Ritual actions are not accidental or thoughtless. Instead, by their very nature, they are deliberate, meticulously executed intentional behaviors. Human society required trust, and ritual was necessary to create that trust because, unlike language, ritual was indexical. In this way, ritual becomes the mechanism by which words gain or lose credibility.”
Jesus practiced leadership through consistently living His life and purpose. His credibility was well established and reinforced by His consistency. Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) tells us that:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As we seek to emulate Jesus’ leadership, we should remember that consistency speaks to our credibility, our credibility speaks to our character, and our character speaks to our effectiveness. Leadership isn’t just about what we say, know or do; it’s about who we are. We can become better leaders by increasing our consistency. Titus 2: 7-8 (CEV) offers good advice on where to begin:
“Always set a good example for others. Be sincere and serious when you teach. Use clean language that no one can criticize. Do this, and your enemies will be too ashamed to say anything against you.”
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