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Lead Like Jesus: Critical Book Review by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges

Thesis and Purpose of the Book

In the book Lead Like Jesus, the authors Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges develop an entirely new approach to leading and influencing people – servant leadership. The idea is hardly unique as it is familiar for people from the Bible for thousands of years. Still, the novelty of servant leadership lies in its universal applicability in all the spheres of life. The authors go beyond the traditional understanding of leadership, extending the concept to many real-life situations when people have the opportunity to influence others. The authors aim to motivate people to “make a difference in our world by being effective servant leaders” (Blanchard & Hodges, 2005, p. xi).

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The thesis of the book lies in following Jesus, both like a role-model of a perfect leader and like God whom one should trust. The argument is developed in the context of modern everyday communication, personal, and business leadership.

Authors’ Ideas and Arguments

The authors begin their argumentation by revealing the immorality and corruption of traditional leadership values. Thus, they justify the need for a different type of leader, namely the servant leader. The first question the reader is going to answer is whether he or she is a leader. The authors claim that leadership goes beyond its formal understanding, and everyone who intends to influence others is a leader. According to Blanchard and Hodges (2005), each time “you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader” (p. 5). That is why the example of Jesus can help to solve various problems that happen in different areas of life.

Consequently, the authors go from detecting the areas where the change is needed to stating how this change should be implemented. As Blanchard and Hodges (2005) believe, Jesus is a perfect role model of an effective servant leader. The authors support their claim by proving the relevance of Jesus’s experience for every situation people may face today. For example, He experienced communication in a multicultural environment, handling criticism, opposition, rejection, training and developing others, and delegating His tasks to them. Although He was God, Jesus did not feel ashamed to do manual work to be able to understand the needs of people.

Having provided the arguments supporting the need for change in leadership format and the relevance of the leading like Jesus in modern life, the authors give an extended instruction towards the implementation of this change. The main body of the book consists predominately of the insight into the stages and dimensions of leadership development. According to Blanchard and Hodges (2005), one should begin with personal leadership, following by building trustworthy relationships in one-on-one leadership. After having passed these stages successfully, a person is ready to build a team, and only after gaining experience in the first three stages, one is prepared to work in organizational or community leadership.

Leading like Jesus requires constant commitment and the integration of four leadership domains – the internal realms of heart and head and external domains of hands and habits. The change that happens in the heart of a leader should transform him or her from a self-serving leader to a servant leader. The main focus of the internal domain of the head is the specific point of view of a leader. The changes that happen in the head influence one’s beliefs and understanding of the ways of motivating people. The opinions and intentions that develop in the heart and head should find their manifestation in a leader’s actions (hands). Habits are the ways how a leader treats daily commitments, such as practicing prayer, forgiving, or encouraging others.

The Strongest Points of the Book

The book Lead Like Jesus provides a view on the leadership model that significantly differs from the traditional perception of it. The strongest point of the book is that besides the description of the new approach, it gives clear and well-elaborated guidance on how to achieve the highest level of servant leadership. The book has high practical value, as the advice presented here is displayed in a logical order according to the stages of leadership development and aims to cover all spheres of life. The instructions from the book, if properly followed, can be applied at different levels of leadership as they are universal. They also can help you to change both the attitudes and behaviors concerning servant leadership.

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The other strength of the book is its relevance to almost all spheres of life where leadership is present. Blanchard and Hodges (2005) prove that Jesus is an effective role model as he had experienced the same leadership challenges that modern leaders face. His example is applicable to family life, church leadership, or business. The book under discussion is a tool that helps to “take God beyond the spiritual compartment of your private spiritual life” (Blanchard & Hodges, 2005, p. xii). The authors’ point is that serving God’s purpose and other people can bring more benefits than self-serving.

The Weak Points of the Book

The book Lead Like Jesus is not an ordinary book aimed to enhance knowledge, but it is a practical guide to changing human life. The information is presented clearly, concisely, and logically, so that it is not easy to detect some crucial drawbacks in it. Some disagreements may be found when considering the audience to which the authors address. The information presented is sometimes inconsistent, as the authors try to address both active Christians and non-Christians.

The latter may use the example of Jesus as their leadership model and employ some advice for the book. Still, the authors clearly state that one has to accept Jesus to make changes happen in the realm of the heart. Blanchard and Hodges (2005) argue that people should “grow to trust Him as the perfect One to follow” (p. xii). As for the former, who adhere to the evangelistic point of view, the concept of following Jesus lacks the reference to Holy Spirit. The weakness of the whole book lies in an attempt to address different types of audiences, which causes contradiction.

Concluding Thoughts

The reviewed book fundamentally contributes to the theory of leadership development proposing a different model that relies on the example of Jesus. Its strongest point is that besides a solid framework, it develops a strategy that readers should follow to reach higher levels of leadership. The authors ask the key question, “do we seek to serve or to be served?” (Blanchard & Hodges, 2005, p. 7), which is in the core servant leadership. The book’s principal value is that it is practically useful and life-changing with a minimum of unnecessary information.

Besides the advice on how effective leadership should be developed, the authors of the book Lead Like Jesus offer a new approach to the idea of what leadership comprises. The authors extend the concept of leadership beyond its formal scope, stating that people lead in any formal or informal situation when they aspire to influence others. Thus, the practices taught in this book can be applied not only in organizational leadership but also in informal circumstances, such as one-on-one leadership or family leadership.


Blanchard, K. H., & Hodges, P. (2005). Lead like Jesus: Lessons from the greatest leadership role model of all times. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.

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