Nature and Style of Leadership: Jesus

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The Mentoring Leader

In order to truly understand the role of the mentoring leader, it is imperative to examine the life of Christ. The very fact that we are Christians today is because of his investment in the lives of the disciples. Had he not mentored them, we would never have had an opportunity to hear the gospel message. He poured his life into the lives of 12 men and 11 of them chose to honor Him and spread the message after Christ left the earth. Each of those men shared with others who in turn shared with others down through the generations until you and I had a chance to hear the good news.

Most people in the world of marketing would agree that the average person knows around 300 people. Those people would be your circle of influence; lives that you touch in some way, shape, or form. Each of those 300 people that you touch, also touch 300 people. While there may be some overlap, it is interesting to see how quickly the ripple of influence can be spread over a large group of people. I believe that is how one Savior used twelve disciples and their circles of influence over the past two thousand years to turn into what is currently reported as over two billion Christians around the world.

Many of us will never see that kind of return on our mentoring relationships, but it is important to recognize that Jesus did not invest a great deal of time into all two billion Christians, he chose twelve to walk alongside for a period of time. Mentoring occurs when two people commit to doing life together for an agreed amount of time.
Mentoring leaders are often classified as phelgmatics. They are known as calm, easy-going people. They are usually easy to get along with and make friends easily. They can be known for neglecting tasks in favor of relationships, which makes them seem unreliable to some. Phlegmatics are also known as being positive people.

Jesus chose twelve disciples. We don’t know too much about them before they became his disciples, but we do know that they came from a variety of different backgrounds. Jesus saw the potential in each of them for leadership. The mentoring process is special because you can’t predict the outcome. You just have to trust that God will use your investment in the life of that person to help them fulfill their God-given potential.

A mentor must develop a personal relationship with those they are mentoring. A mentoring relationship will only be successful if both parties are willing to invest in the relationship. It cannot be a one-sided partnership. I am reminded of I Corinthians 11:1 where it says, “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” People are wired to “do life together”. We were not meant to live alone, God created us to be in fellowship with other people. As Christians, we benefit from fellowship with other believers. The mentoring relationship works because it introduces a new point of view to a person’s life.

The mentoring relationship is not a casual friendship. There must be clearly agreed upon goals for the time spent together as well as some sort of evaluation or analysis in place. Jesus challenged His disciples. He had to make sure they were on board for carrying on the message of good news for all people. In Luke 9:23 it says, “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” This was not the type of relationship focused on going out to dinner or the latest new movie. Jesus was calling them to do something revolutionary that could ultimately lead to death or at the very least, outcast status at some point in the journey.

At some point in the mentoring adventure, the mentor must show how much “skin they have in the game” by making some sort of demonstration of commitment to the other person. Most of the time this means giving up some personal comfort in favor of spending extra time with the mentee. Jesus proved his love for the disciples by hanging on the cross and dying for them, just as he predicted. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Jesus knew that he could talk to the disciples and they would learn some of what he was teaching. However, he also knew that they would never forget the things that they witnessed him doing. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In their mind, they could understand that concept. The value he was sharing with them was service. Values are concepts that govern human behavior. Because he valued service, Jesus served. I’m sure they noticed that he talked a lot about serving, but I’m sure none of them ever forgot what happened in the Upper Room when Jesus humbled himself and washed the disciple’s feet in John 13. A mentor must be willing to live out what they are teaching by modeling specific behaviors.
Mentors must also be sensitive enough to know when it is time to give the mentee a chance to try to lead on their own. You have to give people a chance to lead if you are going to be able to gauge if they are leadership material. You also have to be willing to let them fail and walk them through understanding what went wrong. Jesus gave the disciples opportunities to serve in small ways so he would know that they were ready to serve when it really counted after He left the earth.

Jesus supervised and trained the disciples through each of their ministry experiences. He helped them look at what went well and what could be better the next time. Immediate feedback is a key in the mentoring relationship. Feedback is a critical component of communication. You have to help your mentee build up to the point where they are capable of leading on their own. In most cases, you will know when it’s time to take off the training wheels and let them do their own thing.

Once your mentee has met the challenges you placed before them and you feel confident in their abilities to lead, you need to help them make the transition from mentee to mentor. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is a perfect example of this transition. Jesus worked with the disciples for a while and then he knew they were ready to go out and do what he had selected them to do. Jesus challenged them to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The ultimate success of a mentoring relationship is that point where the mentor is free to start a new mentoring relationship and the mentee becomes a mentor. The original mentor and mentee will always have a special relationship and that should be celebrated. They can be a great resource for each other as various situations come along.

To summarize the role of the mentoring leader, it is critical to be in prayer to identify those that could be trained to be leaders. Once you have identified someone to mentor, you must be willing to build a relationship with him or her so that they trust you as a leader. After that, challenge them to raise the bar and sharpen their leadership skills. Be open and share lessons that you have learned along the way. Your experiences will often be more valuable to them than anything they could read in a book or learn in a seminar about leadership. Once they have had a chance to observe you in leadership, set them free to lead in small ways. Give them opportunities to be successful and put them in spots that they might fail. Either way, they need to learn through the process. Offer them immediate feedback and challenge them to grow in particular areas as it relates to their leadership skills. Once they have led successfully a few times and you feel confident in the transition, challenge them to find another person to invest in so that the process continues.

Jesus poured his life into the disciples while He was here on the earth. After He ascended into heaven, it was their job to spread the good news of the gospel for all people. Each of them replicated the mentoring process and today the gospel story remains strong because those disciples reproduced themselves throughout the generations.

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