Radical Leadership

When you think of the essential characteristics of a leader, what words come to mind? 

Integrity, visionary, inspirational or perhaps courageous?  All these traits are certainly important, but I'd like to suggest another attribute we don't often hear about ... a shepherd's heart. 

The day I heard God's call to lead others, I thoughtfully informed God (like He didn't already know) that I had no clue what to do.

As I prayed, I anticipated that God might direct me to a verse that referred to leading with excellence, the importance of unity or how to utilize the diverse gifts of those on the team.

Instead this was the passage He placed on my heart...

Irish Sheep!
“Woe shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves!

 ...strengthen and heal the sick, care and bring healing to the broken”
~Ezekiel 34

Not only was I was not working with people who were sick, but with a warning like "woe shepherds," it was not exactly the encouragement I was hoping for.

However, God began to use these woolly, pastoral creatures and their caregivers to form and shape me as a leader after His own heart.

What I have since come to know about leadership is this...

Every leader must first learn who and how to follow

God is deeply invested in sheep and shepherds

Strategies, vision and charisma are great, but if you have not a genuine love for God's people then your work will be nothing more than a clanging cymbal!   (1 Corinthians 13)


Regardless of your title or position you will inevitably encounter and have to lead people (sheep) who are broken.

Dutch Sheep!
Through this passage in Ezekiel I began to see the depth of God's love toward His people.  It was clear that God took the care of His sheep personally - which to be honest, scared the living daylights out of me!

As I looked at Christ's leadership through the lens of Ezekiel, I also saw the heart of a shepherd - strengthening, caring, and healing the broken.

I also discovered something else very interesting.  It was often the religious leaders and Jesus own followers who struggled to understand His true calling.

They had a very different idea of how Jesus should carry out His mission.  They often saw the broken and outcasts as unnecessary distractions from accomplishing their vision.

This hits home when I think about the times I have viewed others as unwelcome interruptions to my own work.

Christ, in His compassion, would stop what He was doing or where he was going to listen to the needs of those around Him.  In his tenderness, He would reach out to those who were hurting and they left healed and transformed.
Jesus was not distracted by tasks, position or power to remember His true purpose to care for God's sheep.

Jesus knew how to lead, but He also knew who to follow.  He did not operate on His own, but followed His Father's voice and will.

This kind of radical leadership mystified, baffled and even angered those around him.

If we lead like Jesus, I venture to say that those around us will also not always understand or agree with where we place our priorities.

This kind of leadership seems next to impossible with the constant barrage of expectations, demands or multi-tasking that we face each day.

We too will encounter pressures that deter us from our true call to care for God's wounded sheep.  There will be times where we will be tempted to focus on ourselves and our own ambitions instead of healing the broken.

The good news is that we are not alone.  Our Shepherd delights to show us the way.  

The more we know Jesus and learn to follow His voice, the more we will lead like Him.

Reflection Moments:

Ezekiel 34

Lord, you are our Good Shepherd,

Give us your divine love for your people.  Forgive us for the times we have been so consumed with tasks, performance and "good works" that we have have not stopped to listen and care for the broken in our midst.  Reveal the people we need to reach out and tend to this week.  Teach us Lord how to care, strengthen and heal those who are wounded.  We recognize that it is not possible without you working in and through us.  Help us to know your voice and follow after you.  Mold us into the leaders you desire us to be.

In the powerful, healing and saving name,

Allow the Shepherd to lead you, listen for His voice...

Think back to when you heard God's voice calling you to the role you are currently in now.  What was that moment like?  What did you hear Him say?  How did you feel?  How did you respond?

Use a journal and prayerfully consider some of the following...

Where do I see myself right now in this passage from Ezekiel ... as the good or the bad shepherd?

In what ways have I been feeding myself instead of others?

What are the things that deceive and distract from my true calling?
(This may include pressure from people, tasks, performance, reputation, desires or ambitions)

Is there someone right now who needs some care or extra support? 

Who have I been following? 
Write down one or two actions you can take this week.

Let us follow and lead like Jesus
 Strengthen, care and heal the broken along our way
 Now that is radical leadership!

Jesus, Lamb of God


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