Pastors are called to model Christ and be servant leaders for their congregations. Part of this means that pastors prepare and train their members for servant leadership in their respective areas of life. Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges seek to assist people in doing just that with Lead Like Jesus. Blanchard has been a professor at the University of Massachusetts and the University of San Diego, and is a renowned speaker and author, particularly for a book he coauthored called The One Minute Manager. After coming to faith in Christ, he saw that Jesus fully exemplified the leadership principles he had been teaching for years. He and Hodges hope that Lead Like Jesus can guide followers of Jesus to bring his servant leadership model into every area of life to which they’ve been called.
Structure and Content
Blanchard and Hodges begin by challenging their readers with the questions: Who Will You Follow? and How Will You Lead? In this initial chapter, they try to impress upon the reader the fact that everyone has many areas of life where they’re asked to be leaders (family, work, community, church, etc.), and therefore everyone can apply the lessons of Jesus’ leadership in more than just the spiritual aspect of their lives. In fact, leadership is service to and for others. The authors argue this servant leadership can be achieved by following a transformational model within four subsequent arenas (personal leadership, one-on-one leadership, team/family leadership, and organizational/community leadership) and by aligning four leadership domains: heart, head, hands, and habits. Diving into each of these four domains constitutes the overall structure of the book and the majority of its content.
The first domain, heart, is aligned properly when one works for the interest of others and not for self. Blanchard and Hodges use the acronym EGO to explain a poor heart focus and a good heart focus. A poor EGO would be Edging God Out, that is, a leader working out of self-interest instead of interest in honoring God. The authors argue this happens for one of two reasons: pride or fear, to either promote or protect oneself. The results of this poor EGO are separation, comparing yourself with others, and distorting the truth for the sake of your reputation as leader. Instead, a leader has good EGO when they are Exalting God Only, which allows the person to lead in humility and worship God properly. This proper heart focus allows a person to lead like Jesus in how they handle feedback, how they handle successor planning, and in having a proper perspective of who they think leads and who follows. A properly aligned heart for Blanchard and Hodges is one that understands and exemplifies forgiveness and grace most of all, which they believe must start with leaders.
The second domain, head, consists of one’s belief system and perspective. This is where the leader gets to be the visionary for whomever they’re leading, and the principles shared in this chapter echo many of the ones you’d find in a long-range planning book (e.g., Traction). The leader is to determine the purpose, the picture of the future, and the values that drive the group or organization. This chapter was certainly the most business-focused chapter of the book, but Blanchard and Hodges also provided application for other examples of leadership. Key takeaways from this chapter are the encouragement to focus implementation on those being served instead of on pleasing the bosses, as well as the importance of preparing the next group of leaders to be ready for whatever their season of leadership will require of them.
The third domain, hands, speaks to the public behavior of the leader with his or her followers. A major focus of properly aligning one’s hands is performance coaching with established and communicated outcomes and the answers to achieve them. The authors apply this coaching to what they consider the four types (stages) of followers or students: novice, apprentice, journeyman, and master/teacher. They also stress the importance of communication and of proper EGO in leader-to-follower relationships.
The fourth domain, habits, largely focuses on applying Jesus’ own habits displayed throughout the Gospels: solitude, prayer, Scripture, and responding to God’s unconditional love. Solitude encourages leaders to take time away from the busyness of life and just spend time with God. For the habit of prayer, Blanchard and Hodges explain the importance of preemptive prayer for leaders, and they provide a framework for prayer that may be familiar for many pastors: the ACTS method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). For building a habit in Scripture, the authors encourage not just hearing or reading the Bible but also studying it, memorizing it, and meditating on it. Responding to God’s unconditional love is focused on developing a habit of trusting God’s gracious promises no matter what may happen as you lead others. The reader is also encouraged to find “truth-tellers” and perhaps start “accountability groups” to make sure one is faithful to these habits and remains so.
After exploring and teaching leadership in these four domains, Blanchard and Hodges ask their readers the most important question: Why lead like Jesus? They cover common concerns they’ve encountered as people consider bringing Jesus’ servant leadership into the various aspects of their lives. They also expound upon the spiritual, practical, and “leadership/legacy” reasons one would want to lead the same way as Jesus. The chapter allows the authors to reiterate the blessings that can come from leadership focused on honoring God and serving others.
The final chapter gives the reader the next steps to take to lead like Jesus, including example assessments, prayers, and other resources.
If you’ve read one book on leadership, you’ve kind of read them all. All generally cover the same topics and give the same advice. Lead Like Jesus in many ways is just like all the rest. However, one thing that sets this book apart is its strong Christian emphasis. The focus on Christ-like service in honor of God and in response to his grace provides a refreshing reminder for every pastor, parent, church leader, schoolteacher, and manager. The authors’ trust and love of Jesus and his Word is evident throughout.
The structure of the book is simple and easy to follow, and it’s easy to read and doesn’t get bogged down by technical jargon or business-related content (except for third chapter). In the Introduction, Blanchard and Hodges provide a good outline of how to attack the book and learn and apply its lessons effectively. There are “Pause and Reflect” sections throughout each chapter that allow the reader to stop, consider, and apply what was just covered to their personal life or leadership situation. The authors also provide several real-life examples, quotes, and testimonials, as is also common (and can be beneficial) in leadership books.
Overall, the title of the book was a bit misleading in this reviewer’s opinion. One would think that a book entitled Lead Like Jesus would come from the perspective of “I studied Jesus, and this is what I learned about leadership.” However, it seemed to be more along the lines of “This is what I already knew about leadership, and this is where I saw these things in Jesus.” This led to some uses of Scripture or of examples in Jesus’ life that were a bit “shoehorned” into the advice or lesson. While this is not as organic and Jesus-originating as the title would suggest, the topic matter was still beneficial. The book throughout confessed the importance of a leader remembering God’s unconditional love, which is always a good reminder for pastors and spiritual leaders.
While the topics discussed often fall into the category of common sense, the reminders and suggested ways of incorporating the advice could be very useful, especially for those who would benefit from a structured and easily memorable system for growth as a leader. For this reason, it could also be beneficial to share with church boards and school faculties, though with the common caveat of being mindful for false doctrine often found in Evangelical writing. All in all, Lead Like Jesus is a worthwhile and quick read for any pastor.