In the past I’ve struggled with a messianic complex. It’s innocent enough. I like to help people, but sometimes I make situations worse because rather than lead I tried to “fix” them. This problem is particularly acute when I feel that someone is not learning fast enough, or not at all. Rather than lead and let go, I try harder to fix them and I grow more frustrated, and so do they.
What I’ve found in my life, something I’ve learned from good leaders I’ve surrounded myself with, is that the best policy is to lead and let go. When I don’t lead and let go, when I try to fix people, I often find myself behind them, demanding them to do what I want. I’ve become a boss, someone who expects change simply because it’s commanded. And it’s at that point where I lose any influence I might have had over them. I have ceased being a leader.
Jesus was a “lead and let go” kind of leader. He led his disciples passionately but he never tried to force someone to listen.
The crowds came.
He led some more.
Many in the crowd left.
He let them go and focused on those who stayed.
To be clear, Jesus never closed the door on someone. He always stands at the door and knocks. But he never tries to force himself in. He never tries to bulldoze it down. He leads and then, one way or another, he lets go.
Here are 3 reasons to lead and let go like Jesus.
1. So you can use your time and energy wisely
We have finite time and energy each day. Learning where to invest that time and energy is crucial to making the biggest and longest lasting impact. In one sense it’s about being productive. But it’s more than that. It’s about investing in the lives of others. The simple fact is, the more widely you disperse your energy, the less potent your results will be. If you want to be effective you’ll need to focus your time and energy where you can fulfill your calling in the most powerful way. As a leader you want to reach everyone, sometimes especially “that one that got away.” But you can’t always do that.
When Jesus delivered some hard truths to the rich young ruler, the young man did not want to listen. He turned and walked away and one of the surprising parts of the narrative is that Jesus doesn’t chase after him. He simply, with love and an open door, let’s him go. (Mark 10:21-22)
2. So you can have the greatest impact on those who want to learn
Whenever Jesus let’s people go, he always turns it into a teachable moment for those who stay.
In the story of the rich young ruler, as soon as the man walked away Jesus turned to his disciples and launched into a lesson. He does something similar at the end of John 6 when it says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” He immediately turns his attention to his closest disciples and challenges them about their commitment.
3. So you can make leaders out of disciples
Leaders don’t just need to learn to let go of people who don’t want to listen, they also need to let go of those who do from time to time.
John records these words of Jesus in his Gospel:
“Now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.” (John 16:5-7)
Jesus knew that the only way to take his disciples to the next level was to “go away.” In this context, Jesus had to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come and work in and through the body of Christ. It was the next phase in the processes of making leaders out of a hill-billy group of fishermen.
Question: What other examples from Jesus’ life can you recall where he “lead and let go”? How have you “lead and let go”? You can leave a comment by clicking here.