Being a leader in the workplace is not for the faint of heart. It often involves making critical decisions while under pressure; choosing the right path, which is rarely the simple path; and managing the business’s most important and complicated resource: people.
We have the not-so-small responsibility to inspire others—to help them see beyond themselves and beyond their daily jobs and tasks. As Christian leaders, we should strive for our interactions with others to be Christ-led and Christ-centered. What does this look like in a practical sense?
1. Anchor into Christ.
We can’t emulate Christ as leaders if we aren’t abiding in Him in our daily walk. When I’m anchored into Christ, the rest of my relationships and undertakings hold steady. This doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges and difficulties, but rough spots are easier to weather, because I’m standing firm on the One True Foundation. Regardless of the trouble that comes, the peace that can only come from Him roots down deep and has staying power. I’m equipped against temptation, and I have confidence and surety in the full armor of God.
But when I become spiritually complacent, I can’t fake my way through the fruits of the spirit. I can’t act as if all is well with my soul when I’ve given myself over to worry and stress. If I’ve been lax in my conversations with God or in my pursuit of His Word, I feel the spiritual tension that comes from being out of alignment. The busier and more preoccupied I am, the more likely this is to happen.
Leadership positions within a company are normally the ones that can be the most demanding and time-consuming. Long hours are the norm, including weekends and holidays. We have to be intentional with the time we set aside for our loved ones, and we have to prioritize our relationship with Christ with even more resolve.
When I was a senior vice president, I set aside my commute time for prayer. No matter how early I went to work or how late I stayed, the drive time was the same, and I committed that time to prayer. I prayed for my employees, the organization, my boss, and any leadership challenges I was facing. There were times I asked forgiveness for speaking rashly or harboring ill feelings toward others. At other times, I asked for God’s help so I could forgive someone who had wronged me. I also prayed for wisdom and discernment to sort through difficult company politics or people issues. By the time I arrived at work, I was ready to face the day.
Covering this part of my life in prayer meant that I’d invited God into the workplace to work through me and shape me as a leader. The responsibility I held no longer felt as daunting because His presence and purpose triumphed over my fears and worries. Even Jesus, the Son of God—who had so much to do in such a short time—knew when to move away from the crowds and talk with the Father: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16, NIV).
2. Practice Servant Leadership
Whether he was healing the sick or feeding the hungry, Jesus used his power to help others. His teachings are filled with clear instructions urging leaders to serve their people. In Luke 22: 25-26, he says, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (NLT).
Jesus demonstrated servant leadership and admonished his disciples to do the same. Long before catchy terms such as “employee centric” started appearing in management articles, Jesus was showing his disciples what it meant to lead by putting others first. He did nothing to benefit himself or glorify himself, and though the Son of God, he washed his disciples’ feet. Christian leaders today can follow Christ’s example by making sure that employees are given proper credit for their suggestions and achievements. We can stand in for an employee who has a family emergency. We can invest time and resources in developing employees and helping them reach their goals. Christ-like leadership focuses on others, not self.
3. Make Sure What You Say Matches What You Do
Christ used words to teach, to provoke thought, and to call people into action. He was an extremely effective communicator, but he didn’t limit his communication to words. His actions complemented what he said and vice versa. Leaders who say one thing and do another lose credibility quickly. A person may be blatant, like the boss I once had who said, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Or subtler, like the boss who says she values work-life balance but expects everyone to work on weekends.
Either way, when words and actions don’t align, a crack forms in a leader’s integrity. If we tell employees they’re our most important resource but continuously deliver their performance reviews and raises late, we send dangerously mixed messages.
4. Be an Intentional Leader
We can treat leadership as an extracurricular activity or something we do on the side; it has to come first over other tasks and responsibilities. Jesus used every situation to teach his disciples, guide them, and prepare them for what was to come. In short, they were his succession plan. He developed them and gave them ownership of the ministry. Jesus was purposeful in pushing his disciples beyond what they thought they could do because he saw potential beyond what they could see. He wasn’t afraid to make big requests, and when his followers disappointed him, he transformed those disappointments into learning opportunities.
Christ’s leadership left in its wake a legacy that spread the gospel so quickly within seventy years of his death that even the mighty Roman Empire was threatened. As you start each business day, view the situations, challenges, and even disappointment as opportunities to practice intentional leadership.
As leaders, we can only offer the best of ourselves to our employees and our workplace when we’re anchored into the One who is the source of our identity. Making our relationship with Christ a priority strengthens us, sustains us, and gives us an inner peace that is difficult to shake. We can lead with calm and confidence. Once we’re anchored into Christ, we’re equipped to practice servant leadership and lead with integrity and intention.
Who we are as followers of Christ will inform what we do as leaders of people.