5 Ways to Lead Like Jesus

Photo credit: lightstock.com You might remember the Christian marketing craze of WWJD. Well, that's how I saw it. It was a craze, a fad, a marketing ploy with a quasi-stamp-of-approval from Jesus. The acronym was based on the Christian classic, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon.

I've read the book. It was better than the marketing fad. It encouraged a daily lifestyle reflecting the humble, yet practical way Jesus lived while on earth. People were encouraged to ask themselves the question, "What would Jesus do?" How would Jesus handle the various relationships and situations of my life?

So the question can also be asked, "How did Jesus lead?" What are the ways Jesus displayed leadership? One thing is certain, He demonstrated servant-leadership in everything He did.

The qualities and roles of Jesus' leadership are seen in His humble expression of servant-leadership, in John 13:1-17. This is where Jesus washes the disciples feet, including Judas, the one who would later betray Him.

Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership. Then we see Jesus pointedly addressing the lack of humble leadership in His own followers. They had a penchant for arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus even used a child as an example, to make His point in a couple of instances (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27).

[bctt tweet="Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership"]

In John 13, Jesus provides a clear example by carrying out the job of the lowest household servant. He shows us how a servant-leader leads.

Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader leads.

Know the way

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, in John 13:1, 3. Jesus knew where He came from, and where He was going, and that His Father gave authority over all things to Him.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord. Who has He called us to be? How has he called us to serve Him? Our confidence as leaders needs to be based in our own, healthy relationship with Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord"]

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus daily (Luke 9:23). Surrendering our will to Jesus, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit each day.

Walk the Way

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example.

This, of course, is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples feet (John 13:4-5). It is something we see in Him throughout His leadership and training of the disciples.

[bctt tweet="The most common, important element of true servant-leadership is our life example"]

It was an essential element of Jesus' leadership, as it needs to be for each of us.

Show the Way

This is an extension of walking the way, but moves beyond example to helping others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a personal and relational manner.

Here in, John 13:6-13, we see Jesus do this in His dialogue with Peter, then in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a relational discipleship process.

[bctt tweet="Sound discipleship includes teaching and training in a personal and relational manner"]

It takes an investment of time in people, the very thing we see Jesus do.

Make a way

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. This is not a program to be developed, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. This is what we see Jesus doing in John 13:14-15).

Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders. The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a simple matter of creating opportunities to enable others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Leaders and mentors need to make way for others to step up into leadership roles"]

Jesus' vision was eternal, and He prepared and made the way for His followers to lead others.

Step away

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It is usually a matter of timing, but also the way in which a leader steps away.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example in, John 13:16-17. Other examples are Barnabas bringing Paul to Antioch (Acts 11:22-26) and Paul in his pastoral epistles. It requires more self-denial on the servant-leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="A difficult role of leadership is to know when it’s time to move on or get out of the way"]

On the night Jesus washed the disciples feet, He was preparing them for His departure and for them to step up and into the Jesus-style of leadership—servant-leadership.

Do it

Knowing and doing are two different things. Doing is often what's missing in the church and in leadership. Before you run with this to rail against Christianity, churches, and leaders, remember—this is not just for those with identifiable roles of leadership, it's for all believers.

An old adage reminds us to be part of the solution, not the problem. It's easy to find fault with others, it's much harder to follow through on what we know to do. This is why Jesus tells His followers, after explaining why He washed their feet—

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17)

Whose lives do you influence? How can you lead them as Jesus led?

Are you leading others in any of these 5 ways? If so, continue to move forward through all five. If not, why not?


For a more detailed look at how Jesus led, I highly recommend the book, The Jesus Style. It has become a Jesus Movement classic written by my friend, Gayle Erwin.

Another great book on how to make disciples who will disciple others is, The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman.