Leadership Lessons from the Christmas Story
As a leader, I’m always looking for leadership lessons in the lives of other leaders, books, articles, and my own life experiences. With us approaching Christmas, I recently read the different biblical accounts of the arrival of Jesus' on earth. While reading these Christmas stories, a few leadership lessons jumped out at me that I thought were worth sharing. I did not find them in the usual biblical stories that you hear at a Christmas church service. Rather, these insights came from the first chapter in the book of John. I really enjoy John’s take on Jesus’ life because John had an especially close relationship with Jesus during their time together. His insight into the person of Jesus has always intrigued me. In the first Chapter of John’s book he tells the story of Jesus’ coming to earth in one verse:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
This is a very short but powerful verse to reflect on from a leadership standpoint. John tells us about the arrival of Jesus, his actions, his attributes, and even his leadership style in this verse. Consider the following leadership lessons from this short Christmas story:
John begins by telling us that Jesus left heaven and came to be among the people of the first century. He lived with them and shared meals with them. He traveled with them and conversed with them. He celebrated and even cried with them. He connected with them in their culture and in their environment, he dwelt among them.
- Lesson #1: Connecting with your team in one-on-one and group settings is essential to building trust and developing relationships. As a leader this connection is very difficult to accomplish from behind a desk, on conference calls, or via webinar. Face to face connection time is essential to creating, building, and restoring relationships so that your team members can improve and develop into leaders.
John goes on to explain that Jesus revealed his glory in a way that people saw it and recognized it. He did this through his teaching and everyday encounters with people. He showed his followers how they were to respond to the government, take care of the poor, address the needs of oppressed, and love everyone. He then asked them to follow his example so they could have the greatest impact on the world around them.
- Lesson #2: Modeling the disciplines necessary for maximum impact and influence is essential to mentoring others and developing them into great leaders. Modeling is something that you do not see very much any more from leaders. There is an expectation that when you are hired or join an organization you should automatically know the culture of the company, how to do your job, and what it takes to be successful. As a leader, the more time you spend on clarifying expectations and modeling successful behaviors to your team, the less time you will spend on behavioral problems.
John tells us that Jesus was the Son of God and that he (Jesus) came from the Father to be with us and teach us about God. In his life on earth Jesus revealed the character of God. Jesus was the voice of God's vision and plan for everyone here on earth.
- Lesson #3: Revealing your vision and retelling your vision consistently provides hope and a sense of belonging to your team. We all want to be a part of something meaningful and purposeful. A leader’s vision binds a team together and attracts the best talent to the organization. It also helps a team get through challenging times and difficult markets.
John concludes by sharing that Jesus’ life and ministry was full of grace and truth. Jesus did not shy away from difficult conversations with the other leaders or individuals he encountered. He showed people an amazing amount of grace when no one else would, yet he also encouraged these same people to leave their destructive lifestyle that was causing so many of their problems.
- Lesson #4: Extending grace while holding people accountable allows you to focus on improving the person and not just the work they accomplish. A leader’s positive response to a negative situation is when development and growth have the best chance for occurring. The ability to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations with the goal of helping someone improve makes all the difference in how people view your leadership style and how comfortable they feel approaching you about challenges and difficulties.
Jesus focused his teachings on the reality of what his followers were experiencing, while giving them hope of a better future. He did not just talk about at time when love, peace, and kindness would reign. He told his followers that they would have to sacrifice everything and that the world would hate and persecute them for the message they shared.
- Lesson #5: Communicating both the reality and hope of your organization’s current state and future develops trust between you and your team. Your team knows when things are tough and they can identify “corporate spin” better than you think. Your transparency on appropriate topics will earn you their loyalty and may open the door to creative solutions you did not think were possible.
Sometimes we find leadership lessons in places we are not expecting. Sometimes it can be in just a few short words like the verse above. Where have you recently discovered a leadership lesson that you felt was worth sharing?
I wish you and your loved ones the best this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Make it a great day!