Note: The Severn Leadership Group believes the historic Jesus of Nazareth embodies the timeless and transcendent virtues of love, integrity, truth, and excellence, all within the context of healthy relationships. As such, we look to his life as an example of how to live out these virtues. This article is the second of a three part series of leadership lessons we can learn through observing the life and leadership of Jesus of Nazareth. You can read part one here. Although Jesus of Nazareth was a religious leader, this series intends to focus on his leadership, not the religion.
By Jerry Zazzera
Cultivating and casting a vision for a team is the essential first step of leading a team of excellence. Next, a successful leader must provide their team what they need to succeed. Many leaders are great about providing practical support, such as resources and logistics, which allows the team to meet basic goals.
However, to lead a team of excellence, a leader must provide and promote less tangible support, such as talent development, trust, and healthy relationships. One can look to the life and leadership of the historic Jesus of Nazareth to learn how to provide this kind of support.
A hallmark characteristic of Jesus’ leadership was his ability to identify and develop the talents of whom he selected to be used to build the church. He first picked Peter with all his flaws, knowing that he would one day lead his church after he was gone. Rather than focusing on what he lacked, he saw Peter’s potential and then molded his flaws – his impulsiveness and brashness – to serve the church.
He then chose 11 others to invest in daily: providing instruction, explanation, and an example for how to love, serve and be compassionate to others. He immersed himself in developing each of his disciples – his team.
Another leadership quality Jesus possessed that bound his team was his presence. We see this as he chooses his team by calling them to join him.
The first disciples he called followed by way of a simple invitation: “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:19). Later, he saw two brothers in a boat with their father preparing nets. Jesus called them, “and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:22).
The selection of the remaining disciples followed this pattern. He called, and they followed. His presence captivated their attention and drew them to him. It inspired them to follow him.
His presence was born of his character: his LOVE for others, INTEGRITY of consistently living his values, the TRUTH in everything he said, his pursuit of EXCELLENCE in teaching, healing, and feeding others, and his RELATIONSHIP with his Father that served as the cornerstone of all his other relationships.
And it was his investment in the relationships with his disciples that ultimately led them to be a team of excellence.
Within the group of 12, he picked three – Peter, James, and John – with whom he developed an even deeper relationship. These three formed his inner circle, where they experienced his love even more deeply.
Matthew 26:35 says, “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.”
It takes courage to make such statements. Jesus’ words and exemplary life built the trusting and deep relationship required to inspire that courage within his disciples.
Their trust in Jesus grew to the point where they freely put their full faith in him. When Jesus asked the disciples, “‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:15-16).
Because he consistently demonstrated character throughout the three years he invested in his team, his disciples had no doubts that he was who he said he was. He performed miracles, of course, but it was his selfless care for people, the sick, the lame, the dregs of society that continued to inspire his disciples.
Whether you are forming or have inherited a team, you can learn three lessons on how to develop a team of excellence through the example of the historic Jesus of Nazareth. First, focus on the follower’s potential, transforming potential flaws into strengths to achieve goals. Second, cultivate trust and courage through consistently modeling the LITER virtues (love, integrity, truth, excellence, relationships). And finally, invest in the relationship with each individual on the team.