Published by Rachel Noel on 15th September 2016

Mirroring Jesus as Leader, by Peter Shaw. Grove Ethics Series No. 135. Reviewed by Malcolm Grundy

Mirroring Jesus as Leader, by Peter Shaw. Grove Ethics Series No. 135.

Grove Books, 2004, 28 pages, ISBN 978-1-85174-575-0, £3.95.

Reviewed by Malcolm Grundy

mirroring-jesusThis is the very best kind of short booklet. It is concise and clear and takes us on a long way. Peter Shaw is a Partner in The Change Partnership and works as a coach with senior executives. He is also a Governor of St John’s College, Durham and an Anglican Reader.

The strength and delight of this booklet is that the author draws on his wide experience of business life and consultancy and is able to make strong and recognisable links with faith and the New Testament tradition. His introduction sets out the dilemmas which we all face as leaders today. These include defining the clearest possible strategy, setting priorities amidst a sea of demands, ensuring we get space to reflect, communicating effectively and succinctly and the like.

Quite simply he looks at the key characteristics of Jesus as leader under six themes, five of which he says are strongly reflected in current leadership perspectives. I would say all six are in. These are: Jesus as Visionary, Servant leader, Teacher, Coach, Radical and Healer. As a Visionary Jesus did not meander aimlessly, he had a strong sense of purpose; as a Servant – Shaw says – Jesus did not display servitude but a generosity of spirit. As a Teacher, he says, Jesus’ aim was for his hearers to grow in wisdom and understanding.

I like best of all the splendid aphorism of Shaw’s about Jesus as Coach. He says, ‘He built his own team, but they were not people in his own mould.’ This example alone, if developed, would enable many of our leaders to achieve more and get the very best in support and advice from those around them – frustrating as working with different types of people certainly is! It is comforting and salutary to remember after a bad staff, team or board meeting that Jesus has been there before us!

Shaw also gives us Jesus as a Radical. Here he sees Jesus as someone who knew and understood the traditions, the history and rules of his nation and religion, but who was not afraid to break the mould. He reminds us that this ministry was carried out after times of reflection. Jesus as Healer, Shaw says, is less like the modern business leader. I question this. Much good leadership is about creation and recreation, about redeeming broken or fallen situations. Good leaders bring healing and a significant sense of wellbeing, and for the right reasons.

The booklet then goes on to explore these six themes in relation to current understandings and practices of leadership. At the end we are given a grid. This helps to assess our own leadership style, to ask how others receive our leadership, where we want to be in one year and how we want to set out own priorities for development. This focused end gives practical implications for ourselves as we encounter visionary leadership. In 28 pages we have a tremendous amount, with references throughout to other consultants and a good booklist to take us on.

Ven. Malcolm Grundy is a former Director of the Foundation for Church Leadership.

This review first appeared in Sprit in Work Issue 6 in March 2006

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