Three Key Leadership Principles As Outlined in Mark 10:32-45

(32) Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him:  (33) “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; (34 ) and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”(35) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”(37) They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”(38) But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”(39) They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;  (40) but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.  (42) But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  (43) Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  (44) And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  (45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:32-45

The Bible needs to be vibrant for all of us and Christian truths must be reflected in our behavior, but when we are called to be leaders, it is important for us to evaluate what Christ’s concept of leadership is and how we can best mirror Biblical values in our daily lives. Our Lord’s concept of leadership is based on service rather than title, position, and exercising authority. Not only do leaders that follow our Lord’s directions get better results, they also earn their people’s respect and trust along the way. Here are three key leadership principles as outlined in Mark 10:32-45:

1. True Leaders Have Foresight and Plan Ahead

 Like Jesus, good leaders are able to read the signs around them and make predictions and develop actions plans that take into account the conditions around them. 

  • Jesus knew that the Pharisees and religious leaders wanted to execute Him for unjust reasons because He attacked their power structure, beliefs, and exposed their hypocritical lives. Our biblical passage begins with Jesus predicting His passion, crucifixion, and death.
  • Exceptional CEOs like the late Steve Jobs were able to predict market trends, develop new products and services, and satisfy consumer’s wants and needs.
  • Both business leaders and church leaders must be in touch with people and understand their concerns and needs.
  • Good leaders gather information; great leaders know how to interpret the information they are gathering.

Great Church leaders, our saints and bishops are able to spot danger to their congregations, they are able to expose falsehood, and take actions against those who try to harm their spiritual flocks.

  • True leaders are like the Good Shepherd that our Lord speaks about.  Not only do they protect the flock from harm, but are there to guide the one lost sheep back into the group.
  • Good leaders’ physical and spiritual eyes are constantly engaged to spot trends or decipher happenings so they can act accordingly.

Good foresight and reading the signs are important, but it is useless unless it is followed by preparation, planning, and most important, corrective action. Our Lord in this passage knew that His earthly death was imminent and He was preparing the Apostles to establish the Church and expand the faith. 

  • To prepare the disciples, our Lord teaches them proper leadership attributes that are consistent with His message of salvation.
  • Spiritually, we must heed our Lord’s message and observe the world around us and live accordingly.  We must prepare ourselves spiritually for hard times, bad news, persecution, ridicule, and staying true to our faith in a godless world.

Although some of us are not in positions of earthly authority, we are the leaders of our own lives; we are the masters of our spiritual destiny and should call upon our heavenly Father and Lord for guidance and constantly ask Him what should we do that is in His best interest.

  • Ironically, leadership is not all about telling others what to do as the world fools us into believing.  Rather it is simply obeying God and yielding to His direction for our lives.
  • Our Lord, the Apostles, the saints were all great religious leaders; however, they all yielded to God’s plan for their lives.
  • The key my friends is discernment; good leaders in the Church and world can discern productive from destructive courses of action.

2.            True Leaders Must Earn their Position

Jesus makes the point that leadership is not something that is given, but it is something earned.

  • In today’s gospel, James and John come before Jesus and ask for authority positions in the Kingdom. Our Lord questions the disciples about their commitment to Jesus and their willingness to serve.
  • Presidents, kings, heads of state, corporate CEOs are not necessarily leaders because they are in positions of authority.  There is a huge difference in having a title and leading others effectively.

Leaders must gain the trust of their constituents so when they plot out their action plan, the people follow.

  • If we look back at the biblical text, it’s interesting to point out that Jesus affirms James and John’s leadership role only after they are willing to drink from the cup, and be baptized by the baptism that our Lord underwent.
  • In other words, the Apostles became leaders because of their behavior; they became leaders because they “earned” the right to lead others.
  • In the secular world, there is very little respect for people in position of authority that did not “earn their wings.”  People are unwilling to follow others who have not put in the time and paid their dues in the “School of Hard Knocks.”

Since leadership is something that is earned; it is implied that acquiring leadership takes planning, initiative, hard work, and proper execution.

  • People want to be led by winners; soldiers want to go to battle with generals that won on the battlefield; executives want to work for CEOs that create value for the companies, parishioners want to be guided by bishops, pastors, and people of faith that are true to Gospel and lead exemplary Christian lives.
  • Christian leaders in particular must earn the respect of their congregations through their dedication, love, and service to our Lord.  Christian leaders who betray biblical principles and lead double lives are eventually exposed and their ministries come to abrupt ends.

Leadership is active vibrant; and engaging.  Leadership is earned and is not something that is received or given.

3.        True Leaders Lead by Example

Finally, true leaders lead by example as opposed to poor leaders that say one thing and do another. From the Gospel passage our Lord gives us His leadership criteria by saying that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant; and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all.”

Leaders understand what it is like to meet people’s needs; when we take care of others we gain their respect.

  • One of the problems we have with our politicians is that they are not leaders.  They are not our servants; but rather are serving their own needs.  For example, Congress exempts itself from many laws where we are held accountable and all too often we hear how those who are our public servants are getting wealthy at our expense.
  • In today’s passage our Lord warns all leaders (especially His Church leaders) that they are to outdo each other in acts of humility, kindness, generosity, and service.  You see, authority based leadership leads to exploitation; Christian based servant leadership leads to the building up of the faithful and the internal spiritual development of the leader.
  • The servant-leader Jesus describes rejoices in helping others rather than the authority based leader who tries to profit from those they lead.

How do we change our leadership style so that we lead as Jesus teaches us?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

1. Care more about getting something done, rather than who gets the credit.  In the Church, it is doing something for God because it is right, rather than trying to gain recognition.

2. Focus more about others and the outcome than your own self, ego, reputation, or image.  In essence, it is leading with a humble heart.

3. Be the type of person who asks what you can do for the Church or the Company or the organization rather than what these institutions can do for you.

4.  Understand that the Bible gives us some advice on the subject:

5. Most of all lead by example; lead others as our Lord led His flock

Even as we strive to follow the Lord’s example as leaders, we remember the kind of people that the Lord chooses often don’t fit that pattern. As one person said:

“Moses stuttered.  David’s armor didn’t fit.  Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.  Jacob was a liar.  David had an affair.  Solomon was too rich.  Abraham was too old.  David was too young.  Timothy had ulcers.  Peter was afraid of death.          Lazarus was dead.  John was self-righteous.  Jesus was too poor.  Naomi was a widow.  John Mark was rejected by Paul.  Paul was a murderer. So was Moses.  Jonah ran from God.  Miriam was a gossip & bigot.  Gideon and Thomas both doubted.  Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.  Elijah was burned out.  Martha was a worrywart.  Samson had long hair.  Noah got drunk.  And did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?  So did Peter, Paul… and, well, & lots of folks.”

Despite all these faults and difficulties, God chose these people to lead His people.  Leaders, especially Church leaders are not perfect people as I Corinthians 1:27-29 tells us “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him.”

As far God is concerned, servanthood is more important than stardom.  And so, when Jesus chose His disciples – they were not the most learned, accomplished, or entrepreneurial.  They were simply men He trusted that could be used to establish His Kingdom.  God wants us to be faithful and obedient to His will for our lives.  Our world looks to leaders who exert power, have positions of authority, and are convincing in their smooth-talk arguments.  Unfortunately, none of these qualities are requisites for the Christian leader that our Lord tells us about today.  Poor leadership is why we are having trouble in a mixed-up world.  Sure we have many politicians, heads of state, dictators, royalty, but few actual leaders.

True leaders do not always have high ranking positions of authority.  Rather, true leadership is found in men and women that have foresight and vision; that earned their abilities through positive good works and actions, and lead by example.  Jesus’ ideal leader is a servant-leader that outdoes everyone else in virtue, kindness, good works, and meets other people’s needs.  Our Lord’s definition of greatness and leadership is contrary to what most people perceive; however, it is consistent with modern management theory.  In Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great”, top leaders display the paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

So two thousand years later, our biblical principles hold true.  My friends, take charge of your lives, proceed with courage, and lead yourselves, your families, and others by simply following Jesus’ example.

Our guest author  is Father Kenneth  Anthony. Father Kenneth is a protopresbyter serving the Annunciation Cathedral in Atlanta, GA.  He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (BBA, Accounting), Holy Cross School of Theology (M. Div, Theology), and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (MBA, Business).  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1990 and served parishes in Houston, TX, Kansas City, MO, Pittsburg, CA, Rochester, NY, Ann Arbor, MI, Cumming, GA, and Atlanta, GA.  He is also an executive that specializes in corporate turnarounds.  Some of his former employers include Apple Computer, Ford Motor Company, Kmart, Philips Electronics, Impellam North America, and several smaller privately held businesses.  He and his wife Nancy have been married twenty-five years and have six children (Alex, Gregory, Justin, Arianna, Alexia, and Mara).  For fun he  takes dancing lessons and spends time with his family.



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