Leadership Lessons Born in a Manger

Nativity Scene

How many leaders today could even fathom their impact being felt throughout the world for more than 2,000 years? Truly, from the most humble of earthly beginnings came the greatest leader that any person could strive to emulate. In this Christmas Season, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, it seems most appropriate to reflect on a few leadership lessons born in a manger.

  1. He was humble, yet would not be deterred from his mission. Twenty centuries later, Jim Collins would describe this as Level 5 Leadership — a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. Jesus set an unreachable bar in terms of knowing it was not about him, but it was up to him. Just because the bar is unreachable doesn’t mean you and I shouldn’t strive to follow his example and make sure the focus stays on the what, not the who.
  2. He never lost sight of the big picture, or the importance of little things. Here was a man who clearly knew how things ultimately needed to unfold. In spite, or perhaps because, of that he took time for the little things — an individual conversation or blessing, a meal with friends — that would forever impact those he touched. How many of us either get consumed by the what-ifs, or distracted by the details, and ultimately diminish our impact?
  3. He recognized, and built on, the gifts and graces of his team. With all due respect, it was a rather motley crew that he called to serve as his disciples. And then there was Saul (before his conversion to Paul). Seriously, who among us would bring someone who was persecuting us into the fold? And yet, Jesus saw the gifts and graces within each of these souls. Are we as leaders willing to look beyond the safe bet, the likely candidate, to build on the potential hidden in unlikely wrappers? How might we extend our mission reach if we took that risk?
  4. He took time to renew his spirit. I know, I know, we don’t have time to step back . . . demands are coming from every direction . . . our staff are seeking guidance . . . a deadline is looming . . . Um, hello, Jesus had to deal with, among other things, 5000 hungry people, a panicked staff, and two loaves and fishes, and yet he still found time to be by himself. If the Son of God needs time for rest and renewal, do you think maybe, just maybe, we mere mortals could improve our performance by taking a deep breath every once in a while?

Clearly, I am no theologian . . . but I do consider myself a student, and one who has barely scratched the surface of the many leadership — and life — lessons born in a manger so many years ago. As you listen to the carols, and perhaps walk past a nativity set, I hope you’ll take a few moments to reflect . . . not only on the babe in the manger, but also on the rich lessons His life holds for all of us who are called to lead. May you and yours have a most blessed Christmas Season.

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