The Leadership of God (His relationship with Adam, Noah and Abraham)
In the book of Genesis, God creates the earth, and fills it with plants and creatures as well as humans in his image. Based on Weber’s 3 types of authority: 1. Rational-legal Authority; 2. Traditional Authority; and 3. Charismatic Authority (1924), God’s authority is a combination of Traditional Authority, where His actions can be compared to that of a strict father; and Charismatic Authority, where obedience is demanded based on His supernatural and omnipotent powers.
God’s leadership style can be described as Transactional (Burns, 1978) in the sense that God gives instructions to his people and only intervenes when objectives are not met or when a covenant has been broken. Burns calls this Management-by-Exception (1978). The reward for people who meet God’s objectives and are obedient to God, is eternal life. For the most part, God is generous with people who keep His rules but He intervenes with severe punishment when His rules are not followed, thus utilizing Coercive Power (French & Raven, 1959). For example, in response to Adam eating fruit from the forbidden tree, God says: “Cursed is the ground because of you! It will yield you thorns and thistles. In painful toil will you eat from it all the days of your life until you return to the ground from which you were taken. For you are dirt and to dirt you will return” (Genesis 3:19).
Another example of God’s Coercive Power can be seen in the story of Noah. God floods the earth in response to the corruption of all humankind, “wiping out every living thing from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7), with the exception of Noah and his family and a boat full of two of every species of creature in existence. God’s harsh actions may be confused with that of a Power Wielder (Burns, 1978), but can not be the case since God’s commands are given out of love for his faithful people rather than to meet selfish needs.
God utilizes Reward Power (French & Raven, 1959) in the story of Abraham. Finding favour in Abraham, God makes a covenant with him. He says that Abraham will have many descendants despite the fact that his wife, Sarah, is barren. Then He goes on to make 3 more promises: 1. A holy and fruitful land to Abraham’s descendants; 2. The rise of a royal kingdom from the line of Abraham; and 3. Worldwide blessing. While in her 90’s, Sarah gives birth to their first son, Isaac. To test Abraham’s faith in God’s plan, God instructs Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. After seeing that Abraham intends to follow through with God’s instructions against Abraham’s own will, God stops Abraham and says: “Do not lay your hand on the boy, for now I know that you fear God since you did not withhold your only son from me” (Genesis 22:12). This is another example of God’s Coercive Power (French & Raven, 1959).
God’s leadership style in current organizations
God’s leadership style in the Old Testament is not a good model for organizations of today. In contrast to God, humans are not all-knowing and infallible and they are not in complete control of their outcomes. They must make decisions based on the limited information available to them. Simon calls this concept “bounded rationality” where leaders must simply be satisfied or “satisficed” with using an incomplete picture to make choices, and hope that boundaries of expertise improve in the future (1946).
Rather than sitting in a position of Legal-Rational Authority (Weber, 1924) like many leaders in business organizations, God commands obedience from His people out of the Traditional Authority of a father as well as out of Charismatic Authority of His supernatural powers. As an all-just father figure, when His commands are not followed, He must respond with some form of punishment. However, the punishment is usually followed by some glimmer of hope or promise of redemption for His people in the future (This will be more clear in section 5 of the tutorial). This Transactional Style of Leadership (Burns, 1978) might serve as a useful model in a family setting, but using reward power is recommended over the harsh coercive power displayed by God in the Old testament.
The Leadership of Jesus
Approximately 400 years after the Hebrews return to their promised land as decreed by King Cyrus, God puts into action His plan to fulfill His final promise to Abraham.
The first promise of holy land was fulfilled with Joshua when he led the Hebrews in conquering Jerusalem after Moses died.
The second promise of a royal kingdom was fulfilled with King David.
The third and final promise God made to Abraham was worldwide blessing. By this time, the world power has shifted from the Persian empire to the Greek Empire and then to the Roman Empire. God sends from heaven His only son, Jesus, to be born on earth and grow up as as a human with real human emotions and tendencies. Jesus grows up like a regular Jewish boy in Nazareth with His mother, Mary, and adoptive father, Joseph. He learns the trade of carpentry from Joseph and is also well versed in the Torah. At the age of 30, Jesus begins his teaching ministry as requested by God.
He begins by telling people who He is and then gathers 12 disciples. To show His authority from God, He performs several miracles including healing the sick, walking on water, feeding a crowd of 5000 with 5 loaves of bread, and bringing a dead man back to life. Using parables (picture stories) and His own actions as examples, He teaches the people how to show their love for God by loving and serving each other. He also teaches that God will welcome anyone into His heavenly kingdom, even if they are not Jewish and even if they are the gravest sinners, as long as they repent and follow God’s commandments.
This upsets the Jewish leaders and high priests. They have difficulties accepting this local Jewish man from Nazareth as the Son of God and they refuse to entertain the notion that God’s final promise would be fulfilled in Jesus. As a result, they work with the Roman governor, Pilate, to have Jesus arrested for blasphemy. After a trial involving Pilate, King Herod, and the Jewish High Priests and leaders, He is sentenced to death by crucifixion. Without complaint, Jesus endures extreme physical abuse in multiple forms including– being scourged at the pillar, bearing a crown of thorns that has been secured into His head, carrying his own wooden cross to the place of His execution, falling multiple times under the weight of His cross, being nailed to the cross, and finally dehydration. Three days after His death on the cross, Jesus comes back to life and appears to His disciples.
He leaves them with the gift of the Holy Spirit which enables them to teach the word of God in multiple languages, and have courage in the face of persecution. He also gives them authority to hear and forgive people’s sins “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven” (Matthew 18:18). After encouraging the the disciples to “go forth and make disciples of each other” (Matthew 28:19), Jesus ascends into Heaven in fulfillment of the holy scriptures and of God’s promise to His people, which now includes all nations.
Jesus as a Servant Leader
In first paragraph of this article, God’s leadership style is identified as Transactional (rewarding and punishing according to His law). Despite this rigid leadership style, He is also identified as having Traditional authority like that of a loving father. God demonstrates this fatherly love when He sends His only son, Jesus, down to earth to teach the people and interact with them at their level, and ultimately pay the price of the peoples’ sins in place of them. In this way, God can justify letting imperfect people into His Kingdom. By allowing Himself to die on the cross, Jesus pays for the sins of the world, of all people past and present. For example, when Jesus accepts His crown of thorns, He is actually taking over God’s curse of thorns upon Adam in the book of Genesis. When Jesus dies on the cross, He is actually taking the place of the sacrificial lamb in the story of Abraham and Isaac. In the same sense, He takes the place of Barrabas, the murderous prisoner whom the Jews chose to release at Passover instead of Jesus. He essentially takes the place of all people in paying for all sins ever committed. This is how God fulfills His promise to Abraham of worldwide blessing. In coming down to earth to teach by example and give up His own life to redeem others, Jesus is the ultimate role model of servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1977; Senge, 1990).
Jesus understands the importance of using language as internal representation (Gergen & Thatchenkery, 2004).
He deliberately uses parables (picture stories) to explain new concepts of behaviour to His followers.
This also demonstrates His situational leadership skills (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982) – the ability to adapt his leadership style to match the maturity level of the people. Although He understands that His followers are mostly uneducated people, He treats them with a Theory Y mentality (McGregor, 1957) – encouraging them to not be afraid of change and to think outside of the box in meeting their objective of serving God and serving each other. He encourages them to change their culture from Closed System thinking to Open Systems Thinking by being receptive to the communities around them (Katz and Kahn, 1978).
Jesus steps out of the cultural norm and visits people to connect with them on an individual level. He is interested in the needs of all of His people and pays special attention to those who are considered outcasts in society. Some of the people He visits include– a tax collector, a Samaritan woman, a prostitute, a blind man, and a man with leprosy. He validates the notion that attention paid to people on a individual level actually makes a positive difference in their behaviour (Mayo, 1949).
The servant leadership style that Jesus demonstrates is similar to the Transformation leadership style of Moses but the key difference is that with Transformational leadership, the leader aims to transform people with the ultimate goal of meeting organizational objectives. With Servant leadership, the behaviour of serving is the objective (Farling, et al., 1999).
Jesus’ Leadership Style in Current Organizations
Servant Leadership is an important concept for organizations with a mission centered around people. Educational Institutions are a good example of this. These organizations want to move in the direction of a living system that acknowledges that “learning and growth are natural features in life” (Mitchell & Sackney, 2009), and occurs continuously in day to day interactions inside and outside of the organization. In a living system, relationships and community building are the primary focus of the leader. The servant-leader focuses on people-developing rather than program-pushing. The needs of the people come first before all others.