What would Jesus do if he walked the earth today like he did over 2000 years ago?
That question came to me as I listened to Queen Elizabeth II address the UK amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It occurred to me I have never heard her speak (don’t ask under which rock I’ve been living!), but most importantly, her message of hope was just what, not only the British, but the entire world needs!
Some of her statements brought tears to my eyes (don’t mind me, I am tearing up very easily nowadays). “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us.”
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.”
This is despite the fact that her son and heir to the throne, 71-year-old Prince Charles has been reported to have the COVID-19 disease; and the government is adrift with the hospitalisation of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
There have been other stories of leaders stepping up and responding appropriately to the crisis. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo’s briefings have won praise for ‘wisdom and competence’. The state of NY with over 20 million residents is hardest hit by the virus and the governor’s own brother has not been spared. Back here at home, our very own Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe, has been hailed both locally and abroad for his solid crisis leadership. I am sure there are many leaders fighting this pandemic that we will never hear about, just as there are many that have retreated to the comfort and security of their mansions, suffering from paralysis of inaction.
Which takes me back to my initial question. What would Jesus do?
On 12 March 2020, just a day before the first Corona case was confirmed in the Motherland, I gave a speech at a Toastmasters meeting titled “Lessons From The Quintessential Leader”. My project had the simple objective of identifying my primary leadership style(s) and thereafter delivering a 5- to 7-minute speech to share some aspect of my leadership style or leadership styles in general. I replicate that speech below;
What’s your Leadership style? Democratic? Altruistic? Authoritative? Affiliative? Bureaucratic?
That’s the question I was supposed to answer in my Level 2 Visionary Communicator path. I was eager to discover this wholesome truth! I completed the questionnaire and the scores surprised me! My highest score was on the Democratic style and the lowest on the Bureaucratic style. I’ll tell you why this was a surprise. For one, my children would strongly disagree! Mum? Whose first answer to any request is NO?! How democratic is that? Secondly, I am an auditor by profession. I mean come on, which auditor worth their salt sits you down and tells you, “Let’s deliberate on this matter”! Aren’t they all stringent followers of the rulebook? Very bureaucratic, so to speak?
I discovered, however, that I’ve been either of these two styles and anything else in between on various occasions. I thought about the greatest leaders we are all familiar with. The likes of Martin Luther King Jnr, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Wangari Mathai etc. All these individuals have numerous leadership traits we can learn from. But what’s their specific leadership style? I opined that the most important thing is not to try and fit them in a certain box but to emulate the traits that make them great leaders.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ and to me He is the greatest of the great. Religious and spiritual beliefs aside, no one in history has been discussed more, had more songs and books written about or inspired more artwork. In a span of only three-and-a-half years, Jesus trained twelve of the most underwhelming individuals to lead His cause once He was gone. And none can deny the tremendous growth of that movement, 2000-plus years on!
I admire many leadership traits about Jesus, but I’ll tell you of only three.
First, Jesus led from the inside out. What do I mean? In his book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell refers to Law #6, The Law of Solid Ground, which simply states that “Trust is the Foundation of Leadership.” To build trust, a leader must exhibit Competence, Connection and Character. In other words, Character makes Trust possible. And Trust makes Leadership possible. While we have no account of Jesus’s physical appearance, there is a whole lot on the content of his character. And that character was remarkable. People trusted him, and therefore they followed and continue to follow him. Leadership truly is an inside job.
Second, Jesus was a Servant. Today we hear and read a lot about Servant Leadership but unfortunately, we see very little of it in action. In fact, there is a school of thought that servant leadership is itself an oxymoron. Yet, Jesus was the ultimate servant, willing to even wash His own disciples’ feet. He taught them, saying, “Whoever wants to be great must be a servant”. Leadership is about others, not you.
Third, Jesus was a great story teller. Everyone loves a good story and Jesus knew the power of a good story. Storytelling is quick, powerful, natural, refreshing, collaborative, persuasive and memorable. Jesus told many stories in the form of parables and I’m sure most of you, if not all, seated here today can remember at least one parable. In leadership, storytelling is an effective tool when setting a vision, inspiring an organization, defining culture and values or explaining who you are and what you believe.
In conclusion, I still believe I am right to think leadership isn’t about this or that style, but rather the ability to adjust and be flexible enough to move within the spectrum of leadership styles as the situation calls for it. To quote John Donahoe “Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.” This means we learn and adapt as we go along. I am learning every day from the very best – the quintessential leader, Jesus Christ!
Short and sweet, if I may say so myself!
For many leaders across the world, the hour of reckoning on their leadership journey has come with the COVID-19 outbreak. It is unfamiliar territory and while no-one can be expected to have all the answers, we expect them to ask the right questions, which will in turn ensure focus on the right areas. In doing so, they must lead by example, put the interests of the people they lead before their own, as well as inspire and persuade with stories of hope amidst all the angst.
Now, can you picture Jesus here and now in the fight against COVID-19? Would He even be fighting it or would He already have rebuked it like He did the wind, thereby calming the storm? How would He respond to all the suffering brought about by this pandemic? How far would His compassion go? What stories would He tell to make us better understand what’s going on?
These questions led me to a great truth. Jesus may not be physically walking the earth but He is here, represented by His followers. For those that believe in Him, it is mine and your job to do what He would have done was He physically here. We are His hands, feet and mouthpieces. What am I doing? What are you doing? Am I and are you imitating your quintessential leader?