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What does is it mean to lead like Jesus?

A staggering 90% of Americans believe the nation is facing a crisis of leadership.

According to a Barna Group poll, 61% say they work for a bad boss – and 33% say poor leadership at work is stressing them out.

Everywhere we look – from our politicians to our religious leaders to our bosses at work – leadership is failing.


Rich Cummins
Courtesy of Rich Cummins

Because they aren’t following the example of the greatest leader of all time: Jesus.

You’ve probably seen the television show Undercover Boss, when CEOs put on a disguise and go to work “in the trenches” at their own companies to see what it’s “really like” to work there. I’ve been a CEO and nonprofit leader for decades, and I’m often disappointed by the poor decisions some leaders make.

The impact of poor leadership goes much deeper than being out of touch. It can prove disastrous for your company, your ministry, and even your country.

What’s at the heart of the problem?

It’s just that – the heart.

Many leaders are missing the most crucial element of successful leadership – the condition of their own heart, their character and integrity.

Character: The real issue of great leadership

You see, every problem in leadership is ultimately rooted in character flaws: pride, fear, selfish priorities, insecurities, and the lack of a moral compass. Many leadership programs fail to produce good leaders because they ignore the real issue – the leaders themselves… their character, their integrity, and their emotional intelligence, which are merely external symptoms of an internal heart condition.

Real leaders, strong leaders, effective leaders have grasped this essential truth: until they allow Jesus to transform them from the inside out, they’ll never be the leader at work, at home, in their community, and in the world that earns respect and gets results that go beyond the traditional bottom line.

The problem is that many leaders rely on learned skills, competencies, and tactics – along with their own egos – to lead. It’s a popular formula. There are about 60,000 books on the topic of leadership on right now – most of them teaching performance-focused management techniques, self-reliance, and “self-empowerment.”

However, this formula isn’t producing positive results.

In fact, it’s failing miserably.

A whopping 38% of new CEOs fail in the first 18 months on the job. These failures aren’t all related to lack of management skills. It often comes down to character. Ego, pride, insecurities, and lack of emotional intelligence are their downfall.

Shipwrecked leaders leave behind frazzled employees, chaotic work environments, and fractured, poor-performing organizations.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

At Lead Like Jesus (, we show budding leaders how Jesus’ character traits – humility, compassion, kindness, and willingness to forgive – can turn them into great leaders… leaders that others will willingly and gladly follow.

To be clear, we also promote leadership skills and management tactics that reflect the values of Jesus. And yet, as I’ve learned to appreciate over the past 40 years, great leadership is so much more than just tactics and “head knowledge.” Great leadership – the leadership that Jesus himself modeled – comes from the heart.

And your heart has to be in the right place if you want to lead.

Jesus ‘Cleans House’

Jesus wants to clean house – sweep out those weaknesses and character flaws that so often stoke fear, insecurity, and confusion – and replace the rotten floorboards with the honest, solid oak of grace and integrity.

We all respond to the boss who’s willing to get down in the trenches alongside us – the boss who’s prepared to do his/her share of the grunt work.

That’s the Jesus model.

In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus said: “… whoever would be great among you must be your servant… even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (ESV).

Jesus’ pattern of great leadership still rocks the establishment 2,000 years later. He’s still influencing more leaders in 2021 than any other person, living or dead. He’s still cauterizing the hearts of men and women, shaping them into the character of great leaders.

What does it mean to lead like Jesus?

I invite you to humble yourself, sit at the feet of the lowly carpenter from Nazareth – and learn from the Master’s example.

Rich Cummins is president and CEO of Lead Like Jesus (, a faith-based organization that’s live-streaming the Next Level Global Gathering Oct. 13, a global online event to show people how to “lead like Jesus.” Because of the generosity of its sponsors, Lead Like Jesus is excited to offer this event to everyone at no cost.

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