Who was the greatest leader who ever lived?
Before you answer, let me give you a definition of leadership.
John Maxwell defines leadership this way:
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more and nothing less.”
So, to put the question another way, who has been the most influential person in history?
It’s not a trick question. You may be thinking like the little boy when the preacher was doing a Children’s Moment one Sunday morning. The Preacher asked the kids, “what is brown, furry, climbs trees and has a bushy tail?” The little boy said, “I know I’m supposed to say Jesus, but it sounds like a squirrel to me.”
So, what is the answer to the question, who is the greatest leader, the most influential person who ever lived? It is Jesus of Nazareth!
I say this not because I’m a Christian or because I’m a Pastor. I say this because it is the truth. There is not even a close second. Over two billion people follow Jesus today and hundreds of millions more have followed him over the last 2,000 years. There are 37 million churches in the world not counting many more missions and ministries.
Yes. Jesus influenced people and they followed him. You aren’t a leader if no one is following you. “If you think you’re a leader, but no one is following you...then you are only taking a walk.” To quote John Maxwell again.
In the Gospel of Mark Chapter 3 verses 7-10, we find huge crowds following Jesus.
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.
Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.
This is true throughout the Gospels, wherever Jesus went, great throngs of people followed him. Why? Because he was a leader.
But what did Jesus do to have such great influence on so many?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Would you like to be a person of greater influence? Do you want to grow as a leader?
Then you might want to know, what did Jesus do to have such amazing influence on so many? What made him the greatest leader?
I believe it was at least these things:
Invest in People!
Jesus invested in People!
Great leaders invest time, energy and effort in other people!
In Matthew 4: 19, Jesus invites some ordinary fisherman to be his disciples. Later he calls a tax collector and other people from the marketplace to be his followers too.
There were also many women who followed Jesus as well. But the interesting thing about most of his followers is that they were just very ordinary people.
He took these average, ordinary people and invested in them for the next three years. After his death and resurrection Jesus appeared to these same average men and women who were his disciples and sent them out to change the world. “Go, therefore into all the world and teach them everything I have taught you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Because Jesus invested in them, these
ordinary people went out and did extraordinary things to advance the Cause of Jesus.
How to win friends and influence people, by Dale Carnegie, was written in 1936. But it is still a best seller and a classic. Using many Christian principles, Carnegie reveals to us and teaches us how to have greater influence on other people. I recently bought our youngest son Joshua a new copy of the book and challenged him to read It this Summer. I am proud to say I still have my Dads original copy printed in 1940. The book is so good everyone should read it every year as a reminder of how to have a greater positive impact with your life. In the book, he talks a great deal about investing in other people, and when you do, you will win them as friends. You will also increase your influence with them.
Whatever your business may be, your business is all about people.
Ultimately, your business is not about the bottom line, money, strategic plans, long range goals or better products. Ultimately, your business is about people regardless of what business you are in.
Take time for people and invest in them and you will enrich their lives and your own life too. Put down the cell phones, close the laptops, turn off the TV and tune in to those around you. You will be amazed at the results!
Great leaders are people of influence who invest in other people!
Believe in People
Jesus believed in people. Leaders and people of influence believe in others and look for the best in them.
There is a story in the Gospel of John 8:1-11.
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The religious leaders are trying to trap Jesus. If he says let her go, he will be breaking the law of Moses. If he says stone her, he is breaking the law of the Romans who did not allow the Jews under their rule to carry out capital punishment. He literally holds this woman’s life in his hands.
But then he does something very strange. He doesn’t answer them right away. He kneels down and writes something in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what he writes, but many have ventured a guess. Did he write the sins of the accusers? Did he draw a line in the sand? Maybe he just wrote the word “Forgive”. But what he did next was amazing and brilliant, he stood up and said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”
One by one they dropped their stones, hung their heads and walked away.
“Woman, where are your accusers?” She replies, “Sir, they are all gone.” Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
He gave this woman a second chance when no one else would. He believed in her when no one else did.
People need people to believe in them. Do you want to influence people? Then start believing in them! Look for their potential. See the good in them even when no one else does.
Some bible scholars speculate that this woman caught in the act of adultery could have been Mary of Magdala. This woman, also known as Mary Magdalene, became one of Jesus’ most ardent followers and played a big role in spreading the Gospel in the early church. She traveled with him and the disciples and was there at the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple
during the crucifixion of Jesus. She was also one of the women who went to the tomb on that first Easter morning. He made a huge impact on her because he believed in her. She was the First person to see the Risen Christ! Jesus believing in her changed her life forever!
Think about all the people that have believed in you over the years! Have they made a difference in your life? I have so many people that have invested and believed in me. They have influenced me in ways that completely changed the trajectory of my life no doubt.
Do you want to have greater influence? Believe in people. Look for the potential in them. Choose to see the good in them. It could change their life forever. And yours too.
Jesus loved people unconditionally!
People of influence chose to offer grace and forgiveness to others. They chose to love unconditionally.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If you want to influence people... If you want to lead people.... they have to know you care about them! If they know you love them unconditionally, they will do anything for you.
Jesus gives us the ultimate example of unconditional love while he is hanging on the cross. In Luke 23:34, Jesus offers unconditional love and forgiveness to the people who have just arrested him, tortured him, mocked him and nailed him to a cross to die.
With some of his last words he utters from the cross, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
I don’t care what you have been through or how bad anyone has ever treated you; you and I will never go through anything worse than what Jesus went through. No one will ever treat us worse than they treated Jesus. Yet, Jesus offers unconditional love to them. They didn’t ask for it or deserve it, but he offers it to them anyway, unconditionally!
In John 15:12, Jesus instructs his disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.” But in Luke 23:34 while hanging on the cross, Jesus doesn’t just teach it or tell his followers to do it, he models unconditional love by his own example.
If you want to influence other people, they need to know you have a forgiving heart. They need to know you can and will extend grace to them.
Jesus was the greatest leader who ever lived, because he influenced more people than anyone else ...ever!
If you want to be a person of greater influence...If you want to grow as a leader of people...then start investing in people. Start believing the best in people. And by God’s Grace start loving people unconditionally!
Follow the example of the greatest leader who ever lived, and you will become a person of tremendous influence!