Profiles in Leadership: Jesus

Profiles in Leadership: Jesus

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

There is certainly no one in the history of the world that has been talked about and written about more than Jesus. Three of the world’s largest religions acknowledge him in some way. (Christianity, Judaism, Islam)
The records of Jesus’s time are filled with leadership. While not an exhaustive list by any means, we’ll cover a few of the highlights on what Jesus can teach us about leadership. 

He was a servant

Think about if you were the president of the country and there was not a legislative body. Whatever you said or wanted would happen. What would you do with that amount of power? How would you carry yourself? That alone is hard to imagine. Now multiply that to having the power to rule the world and everything in it. 

Jesus had that power but never showed it for personal gain. He never ruled in a political way, never sat on a worldly throne, and often slept outside. He wasn’t caught up in his own power; he was there to serve others. You and I obviously don’t have the same power that Jesus carried, so why should we act as if we do? 

Serve others no matter your role or position. If you ever get to the point where you believe others are there to serve you, then you have lost your way as a leader. 

He was a storyteller

Jesus is well known for his storytelling ability. He used this communication tool often when teaching his disciples and other followers about theological and life lessons. Jesus showed us the power of storytelling and why it is a tool that you should use when communicating with others. 

  • The stories made complex theology mentally accessible to everyone. You didn’t have to spend your life in the temple to understand the concepts. 
  • They were memorable. Think about the speeches and lectures that you hear. The parts that you walk away remembering are likely the stories that were told. 
  • They all followed the same basic outline: A beginning, a challenge or dilemma, and a resolution. They were also typically short and to the point. Your stories don’t have to be long narratives to be effective. 
  • His stories caused people to think. The best stories are the ones where people can project themselves or their circumstances and learn a lesson about themselves. 

He handled interruptions well

When reading about Jesus, it’s easy to overlook one thing. He was constantly interrupted. He was interrupted in his sleep, prayers, conversations, and in his travels. In each circumstance, he welcomed it with grace and humility. 

We generally don’t like interruptions. I really dislike interruptions when I’m in a creative mood because an interruption can cause my creativity to come to a screeching halt. Jesus’s example shows us that we likely have an opportunity for growth in how we handle the daily interruptions that we have in work and life. Treat people with respect even when they interrupt you and keep your composure as things happen throughout your day that is unexpected. 

A few interesting facts

  • Our system for counting years was developed in the Medieval Times based on their guess when Jesus was born. They got close but they likely weren’t right. Most scholars put Jesus’s birth between 6-4 B.C. while others put it as late as 7 A.D. That means you most likely are living 4-6 years from now if the calendar was fixed!
  • Speaking of birth, it’s very unlikely that Christmas is Jesus’s actual birthday. The date is never mentioned in the Bible and from historical context, it was likely sometime between summer and fall. 
  • Jesus fulfilled many prophecies that were written in the Old Testament, with over 300 accounts about acts in the New Testament. To understand just how rare that is; the odds are 1 in a trillion raised to the 13th power. 

Lead with a humble heart. Be a servant to others, tell great stories and embrace the interruptions. Lead like Jesus. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

If you are interested in getting to know more about Jesus, I would suggest the book The Case for Christ. It’s a book written by Lee Strobel about his journey as an award-winning journalist to disprove the existence of Jesus. 

Profiles in Leadership: Thurgood Marshall

Profiles in Leadership: Thurgood Marshall

The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.
-Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall was the country’s first African American Supreme Court judge. Before landing the historic position, he was known as a leader for equal rights, has argued, and won, hundreds of cases to bring the nation closer to equality. A man that led himself well and stood for a cause much larger than his own, Thurgood Marshall gave us several great examples of leadership. 

Follow your calling instead of what others call you

Thurgood Marshall knew that he wanted to be a lawyer and worked hard through his college career to position himself for law school. After graduating with honors, he was rejected from the Maryland Law School based on his race. The encounter with discrimination stuck with him for the rest of his life. He went on to become a lawyer through another school, worked at the NAACP, and began arguing civil rights cases.  Where Dr. Martin Luther King brought people together in the streets, Marshall began righting social injustice laws in the courts. 

When you find your calling, let no one keep you from it. If you run into adversity, find a way around it, through it, under it. Do whatever needs to be done to follow your calling. Had Marshall given up, the civil rights movement may not have been as strong and the progress set back a number of years. 

Use your gifts to help others

Marshall’s drive was to end as much inequality as he could. He won one of the most famous cases of the 20th century; Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He challenged the notion of separate but equal, and then won a unanimous decision that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” While the change was slow, this was the foundation that ended segregation in schools. 

Use your gifts, just as Marshall did, to help others. It may not be as dramatic, but there are certainly ways that you can utilize your skills and talents to increase the value of others. 

Work toward a vision even if you know you can’t reach it

At Marshall’s retirement press conference, several reports asked him about his legacy. One asked about MLK’s “Free at last” statement to which Marshall replied that he didn’t feel free. Marshall also said that wanted to be remembered as a man that did what he could with what he had. He knew that he wouldn’t see the vision that he and Dr. King had during their lifetimes, but that didn’t stop him from pushing towards the goal. 

Hopefully, you are working towards a vision and purpose for your life and/or work that is so big that you may not make it. That’s what makes it exciting! Don’t be discouraged if at the end of the day you don’t get to realize the vision. Think about the progress that you made from your efforts.

I had a cultural vision for an organization that had been around for over 100 years. Although I never got to realize its full potential, I’m very proud of the progress that was made. Sometimes you are a steward of a vision for a while and then someone else will come along and carry it further. 

A few interesting facts

  • Marshall had a great track record as a lawyer and judge. None of his 100 decisions as a circuit judge were overturned in the Supreme Court. He also won 29 of the 32 cases that he argued in the Supreme Court. 
  • He said that one of his greatest accomplishments in high school was that he could recite the whole constitution from memory. He initially received the assignment from a teacher for misbehaving in class. 
  • The Thurgood Marshall Academy was established in 2001 to honor Marshall’s legacy and drive for equal opportunities. The school is located in D.C.’s historic Anacostia neighborhood in Ward 8. There they prep students for successful college careers and teach the importance of being engaged in their community. 

Use your skills to help others, follow your calling and shoot for a goal so big that you may not hit it in your lifetime. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in Leadership: Margaret Thatcher

Profiles in Leadership: Margaret Thatcher

Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.
-Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher became the prime minister of Britain in 1979.  It was a time where you would have to wait in long lines to get gasoline, interest rates were very high and the cold war had started. She was part of a generation that lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the rise of communism.

In a time when the world needed strong leaders, Margaret Thatcher showed herself worthy.  Here are some things that we can take away from her leadership. 

Follow your convictions

The prime minister was, and still is, a polarizing leader. British citizens both loved and hated her. She once cut a free milk service to children as part of a large-scale effort to get Britain out of debt. She was dubbed the “Milk Snatcher” as a result. She once described herself as following conviction, not consensus. Without a doubt, Thatcher led with conviction.  She carried her country through many trials successfully because of the conviction inside of her.

It’s all too common to see people compromise their convictions for the sake of popularity. Don’t be a person that backs down from your convictions for the sake of acceptance. Make the decisions that need to be made…even the difficult ones. 

A shining example of professionalism

Thatcher once said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” This quote is so refreshing in today’s landscape of showmanship and extravagance. She believed in carrying herself as a professional while in public and always wore pearls with her outfits. She felt they were elegant and not flashy like diamonds. She didn’t boast about her status or power, she simply did the job that she set out to do. 

Thatcher’s example reminds us that if we find ourselves saying things like, “I’m the leader,” “Trust me,” and “I know what I’m doing,” then on some level you know that others don’t see you the way that you do. Dress the part, lead like the part, and act as the leader that you aspire to be. 

Be a fixer

Britain was known as “the sick man” of Europe” for its poor economic state when Thatcher became the prime minister. Not only was she a leader with conviction; she was also a fixer with a disposition towards closure. She changed the rules of the London stock market which moved the city to the forefront in world finance. Thatcher simply got things done. 

As a leader, you’ve got to get things done. You’ve got to be action-oriented or you aren’t going to be a very effective leader. Don’t leave problems for the next leader or even the next day. Rally your team, define your goals and move there as quickly as possible. There will be plenty of other challenges that will come and require your attention later.

A few interesting facts

  • Before politics, Thatcher was a food scientist and was part of the team that created soft serve ice cream.  Just like the invention of the hamburger, there are several people who claim themselves to be the true inventor.
  • She was the first woman prime minister ever elected in Britain. She said earlier in her life that there would not be a woman prime minister in her lifetime because of prejudice.
  • After retiring in 1992, she was given the honor and title of Baroness Thatcher. This entitled her to sit in the House of the Lords. 

I love Margaret Thatcher’s quote at the opening. It goes so well with our philosophy that leadership is how you carry yourself, develop others and make the right choice. You don’t have to be a behavior expert to lead people. The lessons you learn in the house are the same ones that you can use to run a nation. Follow Margaret Thatcher’s example and make the right choices in a professional way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 

Profiles in Leadership: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Profiles in Leadership: Franklin D. Roosevelt

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
-Franklin D Roosevelt

There are few leaders that faced the number of tough decisions and crossroads in leadership as Franklin D. Roosevelt. He led the US through the Great Depression and most of the 2nd World War. Many historians consider him one of the greatest, If not the greatest, president of all time.  FDR exhibited many leadership qualities that we can model in our own lives. 

Take advantage of technology to strengthen your communication

FDR was a great communicator and utilized a new technology, radio, to get his message out to the nation’s citizens.  They were informal in nature and were called fireside chats. The messages certainly resonated with people. There was 1 mailperson assigned to the White House prior to the shows. 70 people had to be hired because 500,000 letters of appreciation and questions showed up after the first airing. 

Are you leaning into technology to effectively communicate with others? It seems like every month there is a new tool to use! With technology changing at the pace it is, it’s not smart to get too comfortable and to push all of your communication down one avenue. Remain nimble, stay on top of the newest trends and communicate in a way that your friends, family, and co-workers want. 

A shining example of a continual learner

FDR was a very curious leader who was constantly trying to learn new things and educate himself on issues going on around the world. He sought insight from people both inside and outside of his country.  FDR’s drive for knowledge and growth meant that he could speak on many subjects with authority when he gave his speeches and fireside chats. 

This is a great reminder for us today to continue to grow our own experiences and education. Instead of instantly condemning a side of a debate, take some time to understand the other perspective. Go against today’s society of, “I’m an expert because I say I’m an expert.” and study up on a subject matter before you speak out on it. 

Confident in leadership

The president was already known as a confident leader and his desire for knowledge only made his confidence stronger. Many of his confidants were against the idea of supporting the British during the early part of the war. FDR was well versed on the agenda of the Axis nations, the consequences of his actions and inactions, and held to his moral compass. Knowing that siding with the Allied forces was the right thing to do, he announced the United States’ support. Many consider this one of the defining moments of the war that began to take the momentum away from the opposing side. 

Be confident in yourself and your leadership. Get the facts, hold to your moral standards and make a decision. Try to avoid the wasted energy of second-guessing yourself. If you make a mistake, admit it and make the changes that are needed. Not every decision made by the Allied forces in the war was the right one. They learned from their mistakes, adjusted, and would go on to win World War II. 

A few interesting facts

  • FRD is the only president in the US to serve 4 terms. The constitution was later amended to limit presidents to 2 terms. 
  • He dealt with a large amount of personal adversity while leading. He contracted polio and was paralyzed from the waist down. 
  • FDR wrote the New Deal. He established the social security system, the FDIC to protect your funds in the bank and the SEC. (Security and Exchange Commission)

Follow the president’s example and be confident, curious, and use all the tools available to you. 

Make a better tomorrow.