A friend of mine once asked me what I thought was the leadership style Jesus developed and used to bring his vision and message to humanity. It was something I never thought of before. Jesus was Jesus; he did not need to develop a leadership approach, he just did what he did and whatever he did was the right thing and that was that. My friend then opened the Bible to Mathew 3 and 4 and began to challenge me to see that maybe Jesus had actually developed a particular leadership style for his ministry that was smart and practical and that we can actually learn from and practice in our lives, especially for those who are working in humanitarian issues; which seemed to be a big concern for Jesus as well.
First, the vision; Jesus starts out by receiving the call during his baptism (in other words, the vision is manifested). Having a vision is a probably a good first step for anyone who wants to be a leader. Second, Jesus is tested for his commitment to the vision when he is tempted. This is something that not many of us think about in our leadership lives; we start with a passionate vision and as time passes we fall into the traps of temptations and challenges that begin to distract us from the spark of the vision itself. Many leaders end up abandoning or ignoring the vision (maybe not their roles or positions in the organization) when they fall into temptations such as financial perks, power positions, ego, team management, sustainability of the organization, etc. It seems that the greater and more challenging the vision, the greater the temptations to abandoning it. Third, he assembled his dream team of disciples (student leaders). Interestingly he choose from the diversity of society (a very smart move as people tend to connect more with those that are similar to them) and most of the disciples came with no expertise or even any experience with the subject at hand (a leader builds leaders from the ground up). Finally he goes into practice by actively going “… throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” Mathew 4:23. It was not about sitting in some temple, government building or educational institute, he went out.
What has been the most interesting aspect of this approach from vision to action in my own life has been the last step: teaching, preaching and healing. Looking at it, this is pretty much all what Jesus did; he interacted with people by teaching them, preaching to them and healing them; they either followed or not, that was their choice, but he did very little beyond those three categories.
Over the years I kept bringing myself back to that conversation with my friend wondering how this approach fits in leadership work today, how does it live out in my life? Can this be a strategy that can be taught in leadership development programs and workshops? What does it mean today to be a TPH leader? (Teaching, Preaching and Healing). Here is what I have discovered:
1- Teaching – Jesus started his work by teaching. He created space where he intellectually challenged and gave instructions to people as to how they should conduct and live their lives. He challenged them in how they perceived, related to and interacted with others as well as challenging situations. In today’s language, this is the training and development approach of leaders. It is the learning and educational work that gives individuals and communities the necessary tools to deal with daily challenges they face in their lives. Said differently, it addresses the present, how do we analyze and understand a particular situation and what tools we need in order to deal with it.
2- Preaching – Jesus was bringing the vision of the future to his followers and students. Committed leaders do not just teach on the practicalities and methodologies of how to live your life, sustain it, and maybe make it and those you interact with better; true leaders are continuously motivated by an amazing vision for the future that they see and believe can even exist for their communities today. So in addition to understanding and developing mechanism of how to deal with the present reality through learning and development programs, leaders need to also be equally committed to creating and keeping alive a dream for the future that is a complete shift in the paradigm of the present.
3- Healing – Jesus was able to understand the reason why many people were not able to even see the vision of the future let alone commit themselves to living it, that was due to the constraints, pains, and even traumas of their past experiences. He healed not to show of himself, he healed so that people can be free from whatever bounded them from taking even a single step forward to live their present life fully and seek a new and better future. Once you are healed from the past, you can see the future; once your eyes open from blindness, you can see the light. Once you are healed from the past, you are no longer bound by excuses as to why you cannot move forward, you become responsible for yourself instead of being a victim and dependent on others. What is interesting is that Jesus did not just do physical healing; it was also balanced with psychological and spiritual healing as well. His work with Peter for example, was all about freeing Peter from his own inner barriers, such as fear and ego, so he can become a leader in his own right.
In my personal journey this approach to leadership development and strategy work has not just been helpful, it has become key in the work that I do in the context of understanding how to engage in conflict where the past, present and future are all interconnected in one complex domain. What Jesus did and what true leaders do is create a space where each domain is honored and dealt with separately while not dismissing the relationship between them. The past needs to be honored, respected and healed, if that does not happen the past will continue to dominate the present and future. The future is the vision to be enrolled in but if the vision does not live for us in the present it becomes nothing more than wishful thinking that we contemplate on undermine as being impossible to ever achieve. The present is where we live but without learning for the past, we will most likely repeat the past and without having a vision for the future we become stagnate in maintaining whatever exists in the present.
In the context of the situation in the Holy Land, more than ever, I believe that it is time for such a leadership to rise up. The leaders of today are stuck in a leadership approach that is entrapped in the past; they have not shown us a true vision for the future for peace and their present is waisted in complaining and blaming each other.
The good news is that there is a leadership development program that new and emerging leaders can learn from and the beauty is that this leadership methodology was developed by a local…
Sami Awad is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust. He holds a Masters Degree in International Relations from the American University in Washington D.C. and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Kansas. Since his return to Palestine and establishment of HLT, Sami has engaged himself locally, through promoting and engaging in nonviolence, healing and transformation work and globally through visiting and speaking in different countries, communities, political and religious organizations in places such as India, South Africa, numerous European countries, the US, etc.