“Perhaps the ultimate test of a leader is not what you are able to do in the here and now – but instead what continues to grow long after you are gone.” (Strengths Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie, p95.)
I have had conversations recently that have me thinking about leadership. Those conversations led me to peruse an old leadership book. Scanning through it, I looked at what I had underlined, and that sentence popped out.
If you let that statement guide you, it is pretty easy to identify the most effective leaders of history – because what they started is continuing today. Now, of course, I am a follower of Jesus. He is my Lord – and Jesus is a Lord who leads, and leads well. What he started still continues. It impacts billions of lives daily. The movement he started continues to shape the world and steadily change it in the right direction.
How did he do it? What was his method? It’s pretty simple, really. He reproduced himself in others. Out of the crowd that followed him, he selected a handful to invest in. He invited them to be his disciples and to walk with him. He poured himself into them – and as you read one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) you may notice the emergence of four types of disciple making activities. Type one: Jesus does ministry while his disciples watch (e.g. Matthew 8). Type two: Jesus begins to include them. They are given instruction and begin to help him minister. (e.g. Luke 8:40-56). Type three: Jesus begins giving them jobs to do and he shows up when they get stuck. (e.g. Luke 9:10-17). Type four: Jesus sends them out to do what he’s been doing. (e.g. Luke 10:1-20).
Over time, and with repeated application, Jesus was able to lead the disciples to the point that they could do what he had been doing. Please don’t think I’m dismissing the power of God or the working of the Holy Spirit to transform the lives of the disciples. Discipleship included learning to relate to God in a new way. They learned to call God “Father”, to understand themselves as part of God’s family. Discipleship also included teaching the disciples about the nature of the Spirit, how to recognize the Spirit’s leading, how to cooperate with the Spirit’s activity, and even the steps they needed to take in order to be filled with the Spirit (which mainly involved an expectant, prayerful waiting.) Jesus taught them to relate to the Father and the Spirit in the same way he did.
And here’s my point: as a result of the way Jesus led them, the disciples of Jesus were then able to live their lives like Jesus. They had learned from Jesus how to live like him. And they taught others the same way. As a result, what Jesus started continues to impact the world today.
What Jesus did was not complicated. We use a tool that is built around it called The Discipleship Square. It’s pretty simple. See for yourself here. But most leadership discussions today miss the power of this simple approach to leadership. It doesn’t draw crowds. It doesn’t bring in big bucks. It doesn’t build edifices. But if a leader learns from Jesus to reproduce herself or himself in another person, the leader’s influence and impact doubles. And if that leadership included teaching the other person to reproduce herself or himself in the same way, well, then you have something that can change your world.
Imagine how that could impact your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, your church, and your family. All it takes is a willing leader, a willing follower, and something worth passing on.
Do you have something worth passing on?
May the Lord bless you as you do.