The Seven Foundations of Jesus’ Leadership


Rick Warren

There are no perfect leaders. I’m not a perfect leader. Neither are you. But Jesus is. There’s no better teacher on leadership than Jesus. What made him such as effective leader? Lots of reasons. In this article I’ll give you seven of them.

1. Identification: I must know who I am. To be a leader you’ve got to know who you are. All great leaders know their strengths and their weaknesses. We’re a bundle of both. Leadership is not ignoring one in favor of the other. It’s being honest about them. Good leaders don’t try to be something they are not. They are self-aware.

Jesus had no doubt about his identity. He said:

I am the light of the world. 
I am the Son of God.
I am the way.
I am the truth.
I am the life.
I am the bread of life.

Jesus defines himself 18 times by saying, “I am…” He didn’t let other people define him. He defined himself. If you’re going to be a leader, you must know who you are.

2. Clarification: Know what you want to accomplish. You must clarify what God has called you to do with your life. The direction of your life is your choice. If you don’t like the direction your life is headed right now, change it. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. Nobody’s making you a victim. Nobody’s forcing you to serve in the manner you’re serving.

Jesus knew exactly what God had called him to do. He was a straightforward leader who established clear-cut goals. In John 8 Jesus says, “I know where I came from and I know where I’m going.” Jesus had a clear purpose. He knew not only who he was, but what was he trying to do with his life. He truly was a purpose-driven leader.

God has a purpose for your life and ministry. If you don’t fulfill it, you have wasted your life. You were put on earth to live for the purpose God created you for. A leader knows that purpose and pursues it with passion.

3. Motivation: Know who you’re trying to please. You need to settle the issue of motivation. You can’t please everybody. Just about the time you get one person happy, you’ll tick someone else off.

Jesus lived for an audience of One. His whole purpose was to please his heavenly Father. Jesus says this in John 5, “I only try to please the One who sent Me.” Jesus wasn’t trying to win a popularity content; he just wanted to please God.

That’s a lesson we have to learn as leaders. You’ve got to learn not to care about the opinions of others. You’ve got to focus on God’s opinion of what you’re doing. Don’t pay attention to those who cheer you or jeer you. Either one will sidetrack you.

4. Collaboration: Work with a small group. You never lead by yourself. You always do it in context of a team. All great leaders are great team builders. In fact, if you don’t have a team, you’re not a leader. You’re a loner. The test of leadership is whether anyone is following you.

Jesus modeled this kind of ministry. He never did ministry alone. Mark 3:14 says, “He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” Jesus enlisted other people to serve the cause with him.

If God gives you a vision for your ministry, he’s going to bring other people with the same idea together with you. If nobody agrees on your idea, guess what? It’s not from God.

5. Concentration: Focus on what’s important. Leaders must focus on what’s important. Life is filled with things that will distract you from what’s important. Sometimes we can be distracted by good things as well. If Satan can’t mess up your life by getting you to do wrong things, he’ll mess up your life by giving you too many good things to do.

Jesus was a master of concentration. He focused his life like a laser. He refused to be distracted. Luke 9:51 says, “As the time drew near for his return to heaven, he moved steadily onward toward Jerusalem with an iron will.” He headed toward Jerusalem to die on the cross for us. He did it with an iron will. He would not let anything distract him from what was important.

Your ministry has incredible potential. But that ministry potential won’t be realized until you decide what’s really important. Settle on what’s most important, and God will use your life like you could never imagine.

6. Meditation: Listen to God. Make listening to God a habit of your life. Jesus did. Prayer was a regular part of his life. The Bible tells us in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

If Jesus needed to get alone and listen to God, don’t you think that you need to? You need quiet times to reflect, renew, and recharge. You need time to just get alone, be quiet, and listen to God.

7. Relaxation: Take time to recharge. Leadership is draining. It’s hard work. We all need time to just relax. Jesus encouraged his very busy disciples to take some time for relaxation. Mark 6:31 says, “Crowds of people were coming and going so that they did not even have time to eat. He [Jesus] said to them [the disciples], ‘Come away by yourselves, and we’ll go to a lonely place to get some rest.’”

Jesus realized the disciples had been busy serving, and they were tired. They needed a break. So he told them to get away and rest. Rest is so important that God put it in the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment says this: every seventh day you take a day off. Pastor, this applies to you as well. You need a day away from the church.

Years ago I learned a key to lasting in leadership: divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.

Divert daily means doing something fun every day. Get a hobby. Do something that relaxes you.

Withdraw weekly means you take a day off every week for relaxation and restoration.

Abandon annually means you get away and forget everything for some time each year.

Your leadership is a key ingredient to helping your church become what God has called it to be. In fact, the Bible says this in Proverbs 11:14, “Without wise leadership a nation is in trouble.” That’s true of every single area of life. Without wise leadership, your church is in trouble. Learn about leadership from Jesus. We have no better guide.