The gospel of Mark begins by telling the reader about 9 characteristics of Jesus as a leader. When you read the first chapter of Mark there are some distinctive traits of Christ that every team leader can learn from!
There can be no doubt or question that Jesus Christ was the greatest of all leaders known to man. The biblical truths of his teachings and the pattern of his leadership are valuable to any leader.
Here are 9 characteristics of Jesus as a leader:
1. Jesus was not self-promoting. (Mark 1:11)
As Jesus began his ministry he made it clear that there was a great power at work. The fact, that he placed himself under the care of John the Baptist to allow himself to be baptized also showed that Jesus was going to teach his followers submission does not mean weakness. In fact, what he was displaying was the first expression in his ministry of what true servanthood looked like.
In Matthew 3:13-15 the bible explains in more detail why Jesus began his ministry by not promoting himself but allowing John to be in charge. Matthew writes these words,
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.” (NIV)
2. Jesus was obedient to the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:12-13)
After Jesus was baptized, the Gospel writer Mark says that ”at once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”
As the Gospel writer Matthew tells this story of Jesus going into the wilderness he goes into more details.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus was tested in every temptation known to man in these three temptations. The Apostle John places all sins in three categories when he wrote his epistle to the early New Testament Church. He wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:14-18)
All sins fall into these three categories, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Here is how Jesus temptation and the teachings of John go together.
- The lust of the flesh - “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
- The lust of the eyes – “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
- The pride of life – “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.’
3. Jesus cast a vision, with clarity, simplicity, and directness. (Mark 1:15)
Not long after Jesus began his ministry John was arrested. When this happened “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
One of the most powerful components of Jesus’ ministry was his ability to be simple, clear and direct. This was shown in his preaching and teaching. His ability to tell a truth through a simple parable was the foundation of all he did.
These parables had a purpose that was greater than the story. Jesus explained it to his disciples when he said, “This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:13-15)
4. Jesus was a strategic team builder. (Mark 1:17)
When Jesus called the first four disciples, who were fishermen, to follow him he said, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” When Jesus began the process of calling his disciples to follow him he began with men who had something in common. In the Gospel according to Matthew (chapter 4) the first two men that Jesus called were fishermen who also were brothers. Their names were Peter and Andrew. The next two recruits were friends of Peter and Andrew who were also fishermen. They were brothers whose names were James and John. Is this process of Jesus’ first recruits insignificant or is there a lesson to be learned?
The act of Christ in recruiting the first disciples is a lesson in how important it is for any leader to begin with people who share common traits and values. These four men did not have to explain themselves to one another, neither did they have to learn each other’s backgrounds. Anytime a leader is attempting to build a team it is essential to have a core group of people who understand each other. This enables the establishment of stability before diversity and conflict come along. Be sure of one thing conflict will evolve in any team effort. Before Jesus recruited the other disciples this stable core was created.
5. Jesus was a relationship builder. (Mark 1:19)
As noted above Jesus began recruiting his disciples by finding those who shared some common ground. This strong foundation led to calling those of differing character. Take for example, Matthew the tax collector for Rome and Simon the Zealot (not Simon Peter). The make-up of these two individuals shows how Jesus can build relationships.
Matthew worked for Rome in the collection of Roman taxes while Simon the Zealot was an ardent Jewish nationalist. For the Simon the idea of paying taxes to Rome went against everything he believed. It would not be out of line to say that Simon the Zealot hated Roman tax collectors with a passion.
The bringing together of these two men showed the power of Jesus to merge diverse people together. Jesus is all about building relationships. It started with two sets of brothers that liked fishing together to drawing in a tax collector and a Zealot.
6. Jesus expressed control and authority as a leader, when needed. (Mark 1:23-25)
At the beginning of his ministry Jesus encountered a man possessed by demons.
“Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” When the demon made this statement, Jesus said sternly, “Be quiet and come out of him!”
Never let it be doubted that Jesus had authority and expressed strong control when needed.
7. Jesus engaged crisis head-on. (Mark 1:30-31)
Often a crisis will cripple many people however, Jesus often took a crisis head on. The Bible story says, “Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”
When Luke included this event in his Gospel he approached it from his occupation as doctor. He noted that Peters mother did not have just a fever but a ”A great fever.” (Luke 4:38) This type of fever was a very violent one, that threatened possible death, and was extremely dangerous to an old person. The approach of Christ to deal with this situation was an expression of engaging the crisis head on.
There will often be times when a strong leader will have to take on what others fear. Jesus is the perfect example.
8. Jesus practiced daily prayer. (Mark 1:35)
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) Jesus prayed every day. Here are some examples of his daily practice.
- “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” –Matthew 14:23
- “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’” –Matthew 26:36
- “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” –Mark 1:35
- “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” –Luke 5:16
- “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” –Luke 6:12
- “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” –Luke 18:1
Not only did Jesus show us by his practices of praying that it is a good idea the Old Testament also shows that prayer can empower us to be better people.”
… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14
The prophet Isaiah also pointed out the need for a prayer life when he wrote these words.
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31).
Prayer is a powerful and helpful tool for anyone who desires to be a healthy leader.
9. Jesus was all about empowering others. (Mark 1:40-45)
Jesus’ entire ministry focused on the empowerment of others. A perfect example of this was seen in the healing of a man with leprosy.
“And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” (Mark 1:40-45)
The question was put to Jesus, “If you are willing you can heal me.” The response of Jesus was quick and to the point. “I am willing!” There can be not doubt that Jesus was all about releasing the best in all of us.
These nine behaviors of Jesus were a strong sign of what he thought was important in leadership. These same points can enable any leader to achieve strong team development. The example of Christ is a powerful lesson for anyone desiring to be a strong and healthy leader.