7 Executive Leadership Principles from the Gospel of Luke
Biblical leadership often looks very different from the rest of the world. But this is how Jesus lived — counter-cultural, redefining who a leader should be. The Gospel of Luke contains a wealth of insights into the principles of leadership as Jesus would display them. If we are to live as we are called — set apart from the world — even in our vocations, we must look to Christ as the example for biblical leadership.
1. You don’t have to worry about daily provision.
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on…”
Luke 12:22 [ESV]
Though a leader experiences the pressure of heading up a team looking to him or her for guidance, he or she need not fret about potential failure, feedback on a certain project, or any other worldly measures of success. Others will take their cue from the leader, so keeping a steady faith that God will provide will encourage your team to do the same and unify the group in trusting Him. God works everything for the good of those who love Him, as Romans says, and any financial setback, business decision gone south, or client loss will ultimately be used for your good, regardless of how it affects the organization itself.
2. Real honor comes from a place of humility.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:7-11 [ESV]
Jesus didn’t see honor the same way as the religious leaders of his day. In this parable, Jesus lays out a picture of true honor, putting others before self. Today’s culture largely esteems preservation and elevation of self as the way to get ahead, or at least avoid falling behind the status quo. Jesus was not concerned with the status quo or worldly success. While this passage does not mean we shouldn’t put our full effort into our vocation and work hard to succeed, it does mean we are to serve the Lord and others before ourselves and not seek to inflate our own self-image. It means we can always learn from someone else and should not assume we are the most knowledgeable and best suited for every task. Knowing our true position in light of Christ’s holiness keeps us humble and helps us serve Him —and our teams — better.
3. There will be costs associated with discipleship.
Now great multitudes were going with him. He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple.”
Luke 14:25 [World English Bible]
As followers of Christ, especially in leadership positions, we must put aside our earthly desires and wants, including financial or commercial success in business, and follow the Lord first and foremost. Compared to Christ, nothing measures up, so as Luke 14 says, we must give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord and nothing else. This may look like holding to our convictions in the face of difficult or tempting circumstances, which could result in unpopular decisions or even money lost, but as disciples we are called to put God’s approval before the approval of man or financial success.
4. Each team member is valuable and has unique skills and talents worth developing.
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:7 [ESV]
Jesus tells a parable in Luke 15 about a shepherd leaving his 99 sheep in search of one that is missing, as a parallel to his individual pursuit of us when we were not yet believers. The principle, though, can be applied to staff development as well. Each person on a team is placed there for a reason, and each member has valuable skills and talents. As servant-leaders we should not let even one employee fall by the wayside. Not only would overlooking a staff member be an oversight in utilizing resources, it is also a missed opportunity to make the group even stronger (not to mention simply encouraging that person in their abilities and value). Recognizing unique qualities and working to bring those out in team members, challenging them and motivating them to do their best work, will grow them as individuals as well as your company.
5. As believers, we should manage our resources for the Kingdom as well or better than the world.
“….For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
Luke 16:8 [ESV]
Jesus tells a somewhat complicated parable in Luke 16 about a shrewd manager who deals dishonestly with his master’s funds, but thinks practically and acts quickly to gain favor with others before being fired, which in turn will help him find another job. Though this person was originally unfaithful with the money with which he was trusted, Jesus points out that his shrewdness after the fact was noteworthy. He implies that this type of practical financial planning was more characteristic of nonbelievers than believers, but as believers, we should be even more prudent when it comes to planning for the future and directing business investments. Because we know our money (here, worldly “unrighteous wealth”) ultimately belongs to God and that we cannot take it with us when we pass, Christians should be even quicker to utilize our financial means in ways that lead others to faith in Jesus while we are still on earth.
6. If we are faithful in little as to the Lord, more will be entrusted to us.
Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities…I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Luke 19:17, 26 [ESV]
In this parable, Jesus esteems the servants who invested their 10 minas wisely and brought back a return to the master. The parallel here can be applied to leadership in the summation: to those who are faithful in little, more will be given. As leaders, if we are faithful in what God gives us and use those blessings to further His kingdom, more will be entrusted to us. If we put the Lord first when it comes to our organizations, he will be faithful to see it through. This may not mean financial success by the world’s standards, but it does mean seeing the growth in the Kingdom of believers.
7. Respect human authority, but stand firm on God’s principles.
“He said to them, ‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”
Luke 20:25 [ESV]
As believers, we are to always respect human authority — namely, government — as Jesus states in this passage, which of course includes everyday requirements like paying taxes and following standard business practices. But there are times in today’s culture in which holding fast to God’s word can conflict with this authority. When our biblical principles are directly challenged, we must stand firm in our convictions, asking the Lord for wisdom and discernment every step of the way and keeping grace at the forefront of our minds.