What can faithful professionals learn about being a great manager from the Bible?
The world of people managers is filled with as many varying styles as there are personalities. You have the let’s-be-pals type, the don’t-think-just-do type, the surrogate-parent type, the sink-or-swim type, the read-my-mind type, the only-call-me-as-a-last-resort type and the list goes on and on.
Management styles are often the product of personality meeting personal experience. People’s natural inclinations toward others and the style by which they have been managed directly impacts their approach as a leader, for better or for worse.
Thankfully, our faith provides the greatest example of people management at its best, Jesus Christ. Ok…so He wasn’t in management at a Fortune 100 company but He did manage a team of 12 direct reports and hundreds of dotted liners for three years. There’s so much we can glean about what it takes to be a great manager from the way He interacted with His disciples:
Here are just a few examples:
Encourage Real Diversity
Have you ever taken note of the type of people Jesus had following His lead during His earthly ministry? Men, women, Jews, Samaritans, Romans, Canaanites; a diverse group indeed. But Jesus went a step further to include people with diverse personalities and personal experiences. He had Peter, the zealous, sometimes impetuous, fishermen working with Matthew, an organized, detail minded, tax collector (check out the way he wrote the Gospel of Matthew and you’ll see what I mean). He had Mary and Martha, two unassuming country girls who lived with their brother in company with Mary Magdalene, an independent woman with a history of mental illness from a bustling town. But Jesus saw them, idiosyncracies and personal histories included, as valuable resources. He looked at what their diversity could contribute to the work, not what it would cost in occasional discomfort and awkward moments when differences collide.
Embrace Meaningful Repetition
For three years, the disciples of Jesus (his direct reports) watched Him turn water to wine, make a catered affair out of some little boy’s lunch, walk on water, give sight to the blind, enable the lame to walk, and revert to heavenly form to have a short conference with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-13). Yet, shortly before entering the garden where He would be betrayed and ultimately sent to His death, His disciples are asking Him to just show them God (John 14:8). They just weren’t getting it. When it came to the essential things, the things that could make or break His team, Jesus did not hesitate to repeat Himself. His godly identity, the nature of the kingdom, the circumstances of His death and resurrection, what resources to leverage in His absence; this information was worth repeating because their success depended on it. He repeated the same things in different ways for years. And He didn’t do it with an attitude of disdain for their obtuseness but with careful patience in honor of their desire to learn.
Empower the Team
If we place the earthly ministry of Jesus is business terms, it could be said that He was launching a massive program update. It required old program users to be re-educated (Jews) and new ones to be trained for the first time in various foreign languages (Gentiles). Jesus knew that for this to be done effectively He would need a team. He would need to equip this team with everything they needed to be able to understand and execute the mission. But He didn’t stop there, He knew that they would need to be empowered to take on the work apart from His physical presence. So what does He do? What any great manager would do. He sends them out on their own with clear directions and the blessing of the full protection of His authority (Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-12). As a leader, He built their confidence that they had everything they need to be successful. He gave them the assurance that even when His presence seemed far away, His power and protection was readily available.
Words for Syncing
Sync a little deeper…
What has been your preferred management style?
What’s one thing you can do differently to manage people like Jesus?
What are some other best practices we can glean from Jesus’ earthly ministry?