Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
“I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith. The gentle figure of Christ, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek – I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
On August 22nd, the National Post published an article by John Robson providing his tongue-in-cheek recommendations for the Conservative Party of Canada as members prepared to gather later that week in Halifax to discuss their platform for the 2019 election campaign. From his piece, I infer Robson didn’t intend his reflections to be entirely tongue-in-cheek. In my judgment, they provide a generally (sadly) accurate reality check on 21st century politics in the West.
Without commenting on the merits of the various Canadian political parties, I was struck by the theme of Robson’s piece. In summary, he asserts that political parties typically create principles-based election campaign platforms. However, there is one (unstated) overarching principle to which all others bow. Per Robson, “…we will stand boldly on principle, shifting our footing only when it seems expedient, we have a panic attack or pollsters tell us it might bring in votes.” In other words, we will do anything that wins votes and avoid anything that loses votes!
This article got me thinking about leaders. More specifically, what makes them great? Intuitively, we understand that someone who leads based primarily on winning a popularity contest is not a great leader. Whether in politics, business or any other realm of culture, great leaders adhere to a clear set of values and principles. When their core beliefs don’t accord with those held by other people, they lead by influencing others to follow them rather than compromising their own beliefs.
True leaders stand out from the crowd. While being good listeners, they make decisions and take full responsibility for directing the course of their organization. As I ponder the attributes of outstanding leaders, I am struck by a couple of thoughts.
First, like everyone else, leaders are imperfect. It seems that every great leader is a complex amalgam of the good, the bad and the ugly! Second, Jesus is the exception to this rule. Reflecting on the biblical record of Jesus’ ministry, I see the epitome of the perfect leader.
Per the opening quote, Gandhi saw Jesus as the perfect man, a belief consistent with claims in the Bible. However, Gandhi chose not to embrace Christianity because he was not impressed by the behaviour of the Christians he observed! Based on his decision, I infer that Gandhi profoundly misunderstood Jesus’ mission. According to the Bible, Jesus was much more than “the perfect man” or “the perfect leader.” He was God incarnate who came into the world to reconcile us to God.
This is the first in a series of posts flowing from two premises and one conclusion: (1) people follow leaders; (2) Jesus is The Perfect Leader; and therefore (3) everyone (including marketplace leaders) should consider following Jesus. By extension, as His follower, I look to Jesus’ example as the template for leading others.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.