Jesus Christ, Level 5 Leader

I am fascinated by how well great truths mirror the teaching and examples in the Holy Scriptures. Cases where the modern-day teacher derives his or her thesis from scripture (e.g. Dale Carnegie) are interesting, but it is those cases where empirical data leads to the same conclusions as the teachings preserved as scripture that intrigue me most. One such example is Jim Collins and the concepts explored in his book Good to Great. Collins entered into his study of why and how some companies make the leap from a “good” company to a “great” company specifically looking for answers other than leadership. What he and his team found, however, is that the organizations that make the leap always did so with the guidance of a specific type of leader. The traits of this “Level 5 Leader” are remarkably unsurprising to anyone familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Description of Level 5 Leaders found at the end of Good to Great Chapter 2 is: “Level 5 refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top. Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.” Collins goes on to describe the attributes of a Level 5 leader:

  • Level 5 leaders set up their successors for even greater success in the next generation…
  • Level 5 leaders display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated…
  • Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results. They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or hard the decisions.
  • Level 5 leaders display a workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.
  • Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility…

Jesus displays the qualities of a Level 5 leader, and the result of His work clearly demonstrate that He not only lead from Good to Great, but also that he Built to Last. It would also be interesting to consider how Jesus Christ took the “good” law, prophets, and traditions of His Jewish faith and transformed them into the “great” Christian faith, but everything hinges upon Jesus Himself.

Jesus set us up for success. In addition to promising that He will never leave us (Matthew 28:20), He promised to send us the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Jesus made it clear that He must leave in order to send the assistance we need to succeed (John 16:7). He did not leave his disciples with “well, I hope you’ll make it without me”, but instead promised that we would do even greater things (John 14:12) than He.

Jesus did not cling to His position in heaven (Philippians 2:6), but came to show us how to live. God did not descend from heaven on a flaming chariot or lead an army through the streets of the Holy City. He chose to be born as a child, and not as king, son of kings, but as the (apparently) out-of-wedlock child of a working-class family. When rejected by strangers, Jesus declined to seek revenge for having been slighted, and humbly moved on to the next village (Luke 9:56). When rejected by his neighbors (Matthew 13:57) He did not force himself upon them. When deserted (Luke 22) in His darkest hour by His closest friends, Jesus not only forgave, He also entrusted them individually (John 21:15-19) and corporately (Matthew 26:16) with even greater responsibility.

Jesus was diligently focused upon the work He was sent to accomplish. From childhood (Luke 2:49), to the cross (Luke 23:32-43), and beyond (Luke 13-35) Jesus was driven to produce results. He set His face like flint (Isaiah 50:7) to complete His mission at the cost of His own life. He even chose the betrayer (John 13:18-30) required to complete His mission.

Jesus did not parade through the streets clamoring for attention (Isaiah 42:2). After healing the sick and blind, Jesus gave instructions to “tell no one” (Matthew 8:4), and instructed us also to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them” (Matthew 6:1). Jesus rejected the temptations (Luke 4:1-13) of “miracle, mystery, and authority” (borrowing the words of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor in Brothers Karamazov) as the path to His goals. Jesus was no show-horse (Isaiah 53:2).

Jesus was free with praise and careful with blame. Over and over, He gave credit to the believer’s faith (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28), and spoke of doing nothing on His own (John 5:19). When confronting an angry mob, Jesus gently suggested that they consider their own sins before punishing another’s (John 8:7). When things seemed to be going poorly, Jesus was quick to point out that He could call legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) to His defense, and was choosing not to. This (again, apparent) disaster was completely His responsibility.

Obedient to His Father’s will even though it meant death (Philippians 2:8), and yet a leader worthy of all praise, Jesus demonstrates the humility and will of a Level 5 Leader. Indeed, Jesus is the world’s only Level 6 leader. Only He makes His power our power; only He offers us the opportunity to be a part of an eternal kingdom.

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