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Fail to Live Up to Other’s Expectations By R. Scott Rodin

Learning to lead like Jesus

For everyone in leadership who wants to follow Jesus, I would suggest the best place to start is Philippians 2:7, where Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.”

It does not say Jesus became a man of immoral or questionable reputation, but simply of no reputation. Reputation, image, prestige, prominence, power, and other leadership trappings were devalued and purposefully dismissed. Jesus became such a man not by default or accident but by intention and design. He could only serve, love, give, teach, and lead in this form. (Excerpted from The Steward Leader, IVP 2010, p. 12).

Are you ready to lead in this selfless, sacrificial way? This week, I begin a series called The Five Surefire Ways to Lose Your Reputation as a Leader…and Live Like Jesus. I’ll take you deep into one of these each day.

  1. Fail to live up to other’s expectations
  2. Tell the truth
  3. Don’t defend yourself
  4. Defy success
  5. Lead by waiting for God’s timing in everything

Now, let’s look at the first of these five ways to lose your reputation…and live like Jesus:

(1) Fail to live up to other’s expectations.

Jesus seemed to be a massive disappointment to almost everyone in first-century Palestine. If we look honestly, we see he let just about everybody down. It started as a teenager when he disappointed his mother and father by sneaking away to teach in the synagogue. This was not the obedient child they thought they had raised.

To the Jewish leaders, he condemned rather than congratulated their leadership. This was no true Messiah who would establish their rule over a new nation.

To the zealots, he failed to raise an army to free the children of Israel from Roman oppression and re-establish the throne and reign of David. This was no Savior.

To the crowds that followed him, he began speaking about how they would be eating his body and drinking his blood, and he seemed obsessed with sin, demons, and death to the point that in John 6:66, we are told that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” This was no Rabbi worth following any longer.

At his end, the cheering crowds of Palm Sunday either disappeared or joined with the mockers of Good Friday. Herod dismissed him as a lunatic. Judas betrayed him as a man who had lost his way. The disciples fled in bewilderment that he did not have the power to save himself. Pilot washed his hands of him, Peter denied him, and even the Almighty Father looked away at his most significant moment of agony. Jesus had come a long way from the baby born under the thunderous throng of the angel choirs singing of the new Messiah who would bring peace to the earth.

In the end, Jesus wasn’t the great emancipator, the chief Pharisee, the national liberator, or even the wise moral teacher that people expected him to be. As he hung on the cross, he could claim only one accomplishment in his tumultuous life – Jesus was obedient. And that was enough – more than enough. Jesus refused to accept the mantle others wanted to place upon him at every turn and remained unwavering in his pursuit of the calling for which he had been sent. Satan tried to tempt him away from it but failed. And in refusing to take another, more accessible route, Jesus continually set aside his reputation in favor of his calling.

As leaders, we will have the ever-present choice between pursuing our calling and padding our reputation.

If we lead with reputation, we will work to please others, meet their expectations, and do those things that make us look good in the eyes of those around us.

If we pursue faithfulness in our calling, we will seek to be obedient. And that obedience will often put us at odds with those who want us to be someone else, go somewhere else, and do something else than what aligns with our calling.

We will often disappoint when we hold to God’s leadership.

As faithful steward leaders, we must develop such an intimacy with God and be so led every moment by His Spirit that we can discern the path we are called to walk. Once we know that path, our only obligation is to follow it obediently. It will require absolute trust, total submission, and the abandonment of the pursuit of reputation. It will align us with the path of Jesus and put us at odds with the world. It will give us purpose and set us free.

As a leader, is your allegiance to the expectations of others or solely to the calling that God has placed upon your life?

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Dr. Scott Rodin has been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for twenty-five years. He has served as counsel to over 100 organizations across the country and in Canada and Great Britain, including colleges, seminaries, schools, churches, para-church ministries, and other not-for-profit organizations. Visit his blog at Kingdom Life Publishing.

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