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Written by Amy Schmalfuss
Published: March 7, 2017

3 Lessons on Leadership from the Beatitudes

Redefining the Road to Leadership with the Beatitudes

Several years ago I started my own personal quest to deal with life’s hurts, hang-ups and habits.  After a while, this quest turned into more of a necessity to be able to thrive in this every changing world.  I decided to join a group at my church.  This group went through the book Life’s Healing Choices by John Baker.  “The fact is that many of us are a mess.  We’re scattered all over the living room floor, with no one to put us together and no idea where to begin the process of healing” (p. 1).

The premise of the book is that by using the Beatitudes, one can really come to terms with and move past life’s hurts, hang-ups and habits.  Even though I finished this book four years ago, I continue to go back to it as a reference.  As I started the Masters in Strategic Leadership program, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into.   The further I got, the more I thirst for the teachings this program has to offer.  The more I also realized that I had already been prepared to understand these teachings, based on three of John Baker’s steps.

1. Admitting Need

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3

The first lesson is that we must admit need.  In today’s society, we are forced to control our image, other people, our problems, pain, etc.  The idea of making our own destiny and controlling all aspects of everything we do is paramount to the 21st century.  However, Baker argues than in order to get past life’s curve balls, we must force ourselves to not demand control over all aspects of our lives.  “Admitting your need is what being ‘spiritually poor’ is all about” (p. 18). 

This lesson on the first beatitude can be tied closely to the tendency of today’s leaders to score off the charts on burn-out self-tests.  According to Maslach and Leiter, they site control as a cause for job burnout.  “The demand-control theory of job stress has identified the importance of personal control in the workplace” (p. 500).  In their study they found that role conflict highly contributed to the exhaustion of those being studied. 

What if the participants in Maslach and Leiter’s study were able to admit their need?  What if they could implement John Baker’s first step of giving up control?  Now as leaders, it is impossible to give up all control.  However, what about utilizing those around you?  As we learn more about and dissect leadership skills and values, empowering coworkers or subordinates could help a leader in this regard. 

In my own personal experience, I have had to do this many times.  Whether it is juggling multiple work tasks at the same time or juggling the work-life-school balance.  Every day I have to come back to the main leading force in my life that God is in control.  I am able to delegate tasks to other employees if necessary at work.  There is trust and comradery that accommodates this.  When it comes to juggling work and school with home, I have learned to ask for help from family.  For me to lead my team at work and to lead my family at home, I must admit need when necessary.

2. Getting Help

“Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

The second step in John Baker’s book is getting help.  Now, for the purpose of the group I was in, getting help was looked at in a multitude of ways, based on what the individual was dealing with.  We mourn, or can’t let go of many things in our pasts as human beings.  We are constantly looking in the rearview mirror at choices or decisions we have made that we wish we could change. 

When it comes to leadership, history can be a useful for the sake of context.  .  Looking back, analyzing and learning is necessary.  However constantly looking behind will neglect the opportunities out in front of you.  A leader must be forward thinking in order to help their company grow and increase profitability.  One must be looking for new trends, getting out in front gaining the competitive advantage. 

In the MSL program, we have worked on numerous projects where we have to collect historical data for a company.  This data helps us build a roadmap for the future.  What if CEO’s got stuck on just the data pulled?  Continually going over and over what went wrong.  They would never grow.  They would never flourish.  Stakeholders and shareholders alike would pull away and sever ties.

3. Coming Clean

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled” Matthew 5:6

Guilt is a very real emotion that can eat away at anyone.  According to Baker, “if we are ever to know the joy of a pure heart, we’ll have to learn how to let go of our guilt and shame and how to gain a clear conscience” (p. 102).  Guilt normally stems from one of two things; having been dishonest or having wronged someone-possibly a combination of the two. 

As a leader, two characteristics that are sought after the most from all involved are honesty and ethics.  If a leader is not honest with us, how do we trust them to lead our company or institution?  If we question a leader’s ethics, how will we ever feel that they will do the right thing?  To be a valued leader, one must hunger and thirst for righteousness, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of those who invest so much in them.

The Road Goes On

“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” J. M. Burns (p. 1).  Leadership is hard enough to define.  Being able to translate traits and defining characteristics from life experience will help the learner engage with as well as retain the information.  When we can leverage previous learnings and experience, it can only enhance our understanding of the material.


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  • Baker, J. (2007). Life’s healing choices. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster Inc.
  • Maslach, C. and Leiter, M. (2008). Early predictors of job burnout and engagement. American Psychology Association: Journal of Applied Psychology.
  • Maxwell, J. (2007). The Maxwell leadership Bible. Thomas Nelson, Inc.