One of the most valued leadership qualities in the literature today, both academic and popular, is the quality of innovator. Technology has thrust the globe into a whirlwind of continuous flux and everyone recognizes the need for people who can provide their companies with products that will give them the edge over the competition. This is why Marquardt and Berger1 include “Innovator” in their list of qualities of a global leader.
In a world of rapid change, innovation is not just a nice thing to have, it means the survival of the company. Successful leaders in today’s marketplace create innovative processes and environments that encourage and reward creativity. Rather than stifling innovation with unnecessary systems of approvals and bureaucratic double-checks.
This controlling behavior seems to emanate from a compulsive personality disorder present in some leaders who have a deep need for approval and base their sense of self-efficacy on the performance of others. Leaders who depend on others for their own sense of inner stability find it impossible to trust.
This lack of trust leads to a controlling management style that stiffles creativity and sends a wave of cautiousness throughout the organization. One cannot expect innovation in such an environment. Successful companies today, however, encourage creative thinking and risk-taking
So, we come to the question of this series: What about Jesus? Was he an innovator?
Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that the answer is a resounding “yes.” Jesus was not afraid of risk or innovation nor did he exhibit the controlling behavior that kills creativity.
In the narrative about the washing of the disciple’s feet, John, the author of the fourth gospel, provides a curious insight into the mind of Jesus. He wrote,
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God (John 13:3, ESV).
Jesus did not depend on the opinions of others for his sense of value and personal worth. He knew God loved him and that was the foundation that gave him the courage to innovate and take risks.
John reports an occasion when the crowds abandoned Jesus because they found his teaching too innovative for their taste (John 6). After the crowd left, he turned to the twelve disciples and said:
You do not want to go away also, do you? (John 6:67).
Jesus was offering them an exit because he knew—to have commitment from his followers—he had to risk giving them the freedom to leave.
Jesus described his enterprise as “new wine” that required “new wineskins” (Matt. 9:17).
He broke centuries of racist and gender segregation by walking into the heart of Samaria and speaking to a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26). He allowed a prostitute to wash his feet (Luke 7:37-38).
Perhaps his riskiest move was to turn his mission over to the feeble hands of his disciples. This was on his mind when he prayed:
I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are (John 17:11).
Leaving everything in the hands of his followers was risky and it would require unity for Jesus’ global vision to become a reality.
Yes. Jesus passes the test again. Against criteria established by a 21st century expert in global leadership, he stands out as a shining example of innovation and willingness to take risks.
1: Marquardt, Michael J. and Nancy O. Berger. Global leaders for the 21st century. New York: State University of New York Press, 2000.
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.