One of the five best practices of leadership is “Model the way.” (See Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge for the other four).
Modeling is critical in every leadership environment (parent in the home; manager in the office; coach on the field; sergeant on the battlefield). Modeling is a one word summary of the old “do what I do” line.
Reading through St. Paul’s letter to Titus this morning I encountered Paul’s challenge to the young pastor to “set an example.” I quickly ran through the New Testament and found some other places that discussed the “model the way” concept.
- (John 13:15) “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” Jesus spoke these words after he had humbly served his followers.
- (1 Corinthians 11:1) “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” St. Paul wrote these words to a church filled with crazy people (for instance, one guy was having sex with his dad’s wife and the church was actually celebrating it – 1 Corinthians 5). These words have always challenged me. As a leader, I must live in such a way that I can say to others: Be a dad like me. Handle your anger like I handle mine. Manage your money like I manage mine. Treat your employees like I treat mine. The ONLY way I can do that is if I rigorously follow the pattern that my Leader, Jesus, has set!
- (Philippians 3:17) “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.” St. Paul again…
- (2 Thessalonians 3:7) “For you know that you ought to follow our example. We were never lazy when we were with you.” St. Paul again…
- (1 Timothy 4:12) “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” St. Paul to the young preacher, Timothy. These verses hit home for the teacher/preacher. It’s not so much what you say that gives your leadership credibility, it’s how you live out on Monday what you taught on Sunday.
- (Titus 2:7) “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good deeds of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” St. Paul to another young preacher, Titus. Another way of saying this is, “your life is your lesson.”
These verses call me to prayer and self-reflection. My job as a leader is to do the right thing and call others to do what I have done and am doing.
God, grant those of us who lead: the wisdom to know what is right, the courage to confess our failures, the determination to keep trying, and grace for those whom we lead. Amen.