December 22, 2014

Hemophilia Leadership: Jesus’s Example

Christmas is celebrated this week, and has me thinking of leadership. I have worked with many emerging leaders in the international hemophilia community, who are volunteering to help their country’s people with hemophilia. It’s a daunting task: these volunteers are typically mothers or fathers who struggle daily to make ends meet, and raise with a child with hemophilia without factor. To take on the mantle of leadership, and the challenge of forming a nonprofit without experience, money, resources or even much time, is sheer bravery. We here in the US cannot even begin to imagine their daily lives. Every step is hardship.
Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Child, in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

I sometimes think of the example of Jesus when I approach new leaders, or try to inspire new leaders. Jesus was born into poverty too. He had no earthly resources. He wasn’t trained to be a leader–he was a carpenter. He saw the suffering around him; indeed, his very birth triggered the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” Imagine knowing that fact as you are growing up. He was gifted with the ability to heal. And he had to sacrifice much: leave his mother and father, travel far from home, find disciples, spread his message without any use of newspapers, radio or cell phone. No slogans, no banners, no World Jesus Day. It all came down to him.

Our leaders in Africa, South America and Asia also face much sacrifice and struggle; they need to find disciples; they need to educate the masses. On top of it they have a child with a painful and life-threatening disorder. But these Hemophilia Leaders follow the same style of leadership that Jesus exemplified. They are–or should be–servant leaders.

A servant leader puts the needs of his people over his own desire for control, power, acquisition, or ego. He is attuned to the needs of his people, and seeks to meet them. In hemophilia, this means helping find those who suffer, putting them in touch with a treatment center, educating them about their disorder, and above all, getting them factor.

So in a way, Hemophilia Leaders can “heal”: they learn who to reach out to (doctors, WFH, Project SHARE) for help, for factor. I’ve witnessed so many amazing leaders, some young, some beyond retirement, dedicate every minute of their free time to helping the suffering in their countries. And this while they themselves often need help. Imagine a Hemophilia Leader contacting us at Project SHARE, while they themselves are in pain from a bleed, requesting help for one of their patients. That’s servant leadership.

They are stoic, strong, driven with an inner passion, rise above their own pain and suffering, and above all things, have faith. Faith and trust that someone will help them, that they can change the situation in their countries to make it better for a new generation. Faith in themselves, because they often believe in a higher power helping them, whether a deity or an organization, or both! They have a vision that compels them. They are driven and dedicated. Meditating on this at Christmas, I am in awe of these Hemophilia Leaders–patients, parents, doctors–and I cannot wait to serve them in 2015. What a gift they are to us at Christmas time and throughout the year.

Book I Just Read
Jesus, CEO
Laurie Beth Jones 1995

What skills, attributes and style did Jesus possess that made him a success and a “fisher of men” that leaders today can emulate? That’s the goal of this book, broken down into easy-to-read chapters that pose personal questions to consider at the end of each. The book may be good for leadership novices, but lacks a sharp, in-depth comparison of Jesus’s life and skills compared to those of a modern-day business person (such as provided by Margaret Morrell in Shackleton’s Way). This is a superficial, often trite comparison of Jesus’s skills, mindset and style to modern day leaders. Some are stunningly obvious: He planned. He formed a team. He had a vision. He expressed himself. He forgave them. Simplistic, and questionable at times. (“He came from left field.” “God surprised people.” What? I thought his coming was prophesied, like for centuries?)
There are much better books on Jesus and leadership. Try John Maxwell’s books on leadership and skip this outdated one. It still sells for $10 on Amazon! One/five stars.

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