What would you say is the difference between a leader and a great leader? Since Jesus is The. Greatest. Leader., his example is the one we strive to emulate. One of my favorite passages illustrating Jesus’ Great Leadership shows his incredible compassion for girls and women. In this third post in my Leadership 101 for Christian Women Series, I show how in this one story we see the dividing line between leaders and great leaders.
Leadership Principle No. 3: Great leaders demonstrate their value for individuals in the midst of interruptions and progress toward goals.
While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district. —Matthew 9:18-26 (NRSV)
Notice how many different things are going on at the same time in this one passage:
- Jesus was already busy doing one thing: teaching the disciples of John the Baptist (see the verses immediately preceding this passage).
- Jesus is interrupted by a man who is pleading for Jesus to come raise his daughter from the dead.
- Jesus immediately stopped what he was doing and went to help.
- On his way to do that, a suffering woman touches his garment to be healed and Jesus stopped to focus on her, affirm her faith, and reinstate not only her health, but also her “cleanliness” in the eyes of society.
- Jesus continued on his original path to help the girl and he was interrupted again by the disbelief and laughter of those surrounding the girl.
- Jesus followed through on his original goal and brought the girl back to life.
Leadership Practice No. 3: Great leaders have the ability to do these two things simultaneously:
- Focus on the individual
- Follow through in spite of interruptions
This whole event is an interruption of a teachable moment with another group. Then on his way to fulfill a desperate father’s plea, Jesus is interrupted by another worthy cause, takes the time to give his full attention to the suffering woman, and restores her to health and to her place in society. What is not mentioned in the passage is that her touching Jesus would have rendered him “unclean” according to religious tradition, yet he did not even acknowledge that. People are always more important to Jesus than procedures. After he heals the woman, he gets back on track to go heal the girl and on his way to do that, he is met with disbelief and actual laughter at his abilities. Yet that does not deter him. He is focused on the need of the girl and follows through on that original goal of going to heal her.
Throughout chapters 8 and 9 in Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus showing how God’s love and mercy and forgiveness can overcome any barrier–or interruption. Jesus viewed the suffering people around him with compassion because “they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus knew they needed leaders who led first with compassion and humility.
While we can see Jesus’ example here, we cannot learn how to do this from a book, the learning only happens in on-the-job training and experience. And don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities! If you pray in advance and ask for the Spirit’s sensitivity, you’ll be very aware of the lesson at hand.
Leadership Promise No. 3:
Jesus said, “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4 NRSV).
Leadership Proposal for Women
The next time you are interrupted in your task at hand, consider how Jesus would respond. Take a deep breath and ask for the Spirit’s wisdom and ability to address the interruption if it truly needs your attention. Give that person or situation your focus for that moment and then move back into your original goal. Great leaders are able to multi-task in such a way that keeps others informed, feeling valued, and listened to. Be a great leader!
Have you ever been treated with great compassion by a leader or a boss? Let’s share those stories in the Comments (click on the word “Comments” below). I’ll start . . .