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Ten ways to try to lead like Jesus led

Life will be victorious

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Recently, I had the opportunity to share my approach to leadership with a class at Benedictine College in Atchison.

The following are 10 principles that I use to guide my leadership responsibilities as archbishop. None of these principles are original to me. All of them are derived from the Gospel.

As my staff can verify, I am not always successful with their implementation. They are presented in reverse order of importance.

  1. Discover joy in your work: Even very difficult and demanding work does not have to be a drudgery. A great amount of personal satisfaction can be experienced in doing a project to the best of one’s ability. It is crucial to recognize sources for humor even in the midst of very serious projects.

A good leader sets the tone for the work environment. Without diminishing attention to high standards for the quality of the work, a good leader creates an environment where individuals enjoy being part of a team.

  1. Be not afraid to make mistakes: Recently, I heard a very successful business executive share that she was taught by her father not to be afraid of failure, but to fear not learning from mistakes.

Each night at dinner, her father asked her and her siblings what failures they had experienced during the day. His children got the message that if they never failed, then they were not challenging themselves by taking risks to learn new skills. In the Gospel, Jesus uses the mistakes of the apostles as great teachable moments for all the disciples.

  1. Own responsibility for failures: When the results were not what were desired, do not blame other members of the team for the failure, but accept responsibility as the leader for the poor outcome. Defend the members of your team and do not throw them under the bus to deflect criticism of your own leadership.
  2. Be not afraid to challenge and coach members of your team: Part of the responsibility of leadership is guiding other members of the team. A leader has to be willing sometimes to speak some hard truths when an individual is impeding the success of the entire team.

Avoid embarrassing a team member publicly. The principle Jesus gives his disciples regarding fraternal correction is applicable here. Speak to the individual privately about the difficulties with the quality of their performance or the negative impact of their attitude. Coach them by giving them examples of how they can improve.

  1. Praise and compliment team members for accomplishments: The good leader never misses an opportunity to draw attention to the accomplishments of a member of his team. Mark Twain once quipped that he could live an entire month on a good compliment. Recognizing the achievement of your team and individual members is one of the best ways to foster positive morale.
  2. Emphasize the importance of the role of each member of the team: It is important to help each member realize the importance of their particular responsibility in the overall success of the team.

Good leaders are able to create an environment where individuals do not perceive their co-workers as competitors, but instead understand they have a stake in helping each other succeed.

  1. Develop a mutually shared vision: A good leader has a vision for where he hopes to lead members of his team. Allowing other members of the team to contribute to the shaping of the vision increases their commitment to its success.
  2. Set the tone and work ethic: When other members of the team recognize that the leader is not asking anything from them that he does not require from himself, they are motivated to attempt to match the leader’s efforts. Delegate and empower members of your team to be responsible for helping achieve the vision.
  3. Servant leadership: Jesus gave his most powerful teaching on leadership on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of the apostles.

Of course, this was not just an empty gesture on his part. The apostles had experienced throughout their time with Our Lord his personal concern for them and their well-being. Nothing motivates a team more than a leader who demonstrates respect for individual team members and concern for their welfare.

  1. Before leading, you must be willing to be led: In the Gospel, Jesus is constantly stealing away from the disciples to spend time in prayer with his heavenly Father. A good leader must be a man or woman of prayer, who seeks first of all to understand God’s will before attempting to lead others.

I attempt to follow these principles in my own leadership responsibilities as the archbishop. The execution on my part is very imperfect. However, it helps to have principles to guide me.

It is consoling, as a Christian with leadership responsibilities, to know that God can take our humble and imperfect efforts and draw forth much greater good than we could hope or imagine.

When in doubt, strive to do what Jesus would do!

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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1 Comment

  • Very good timing. God’s providence is something I am very grateful. I’m keeping for my talks about leadership. Thank you, Archbishop Naumann.