Leadership Insights from the Nativity

The beauty of Christmas is that it’s a profound message, yet so simply given. Three ordinary objects from the Christmas story offer profound lessons in leadership.

The Star: Be a Travel Guide

Scripture says the star the wise men saw in the east went before them, till it came and stopped over where the child was. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (Matthew 2:10). The wise men rejoiced over the fact that God provided them with a remarkably accurate travel guide. They understood they never would have found Christ without the star. The Christmas star was God’s gift of direction, God’s travel guide for seekers.

Throughout history, God has seen to it that those who diligently seek after Christ find him. God has provided travel guides that have led, and continue to lead, others to Jesus. Now God wants you to be a travel guide for others.

Some leaders function as travel agents. Travel agents send people to places where they themselves have never been. They give them a brochure and say, “Bon voyage.”

Genuine leaders, those who are effective and influential, are travel guides. Travel guides take people to places they themselves have already been and experienced. The message of the Christmas star is that in order to lead others anywhere, you must go before them.

The Stable: Be an Incarnational Leader

Why would God allow Jesus to be born in a dark, smelly stable crowded with animals? This was a strategically divine decision God made not to shelter his Son from life’s harsh realities. God sent Jesus to live in the real world.

Life without advantage? He lived it.
Shortage, poverty? He’s been there.
Discrimination, oppression? Jesus was a refugee before his first birthday.
Rejection? He experienced it.
Ridicule? It was part of his daily life.
Abandonment? By lifelong friends in his greatest time of need.
Death of loved ones? Multiple times.
Physical pain? More than you or I will probably ever experience.

Sometimes life hurts so deeply you want to cry out, “I can’t go on because nobody understands!” The stable reminds us that Jesus understands. He’s been there. He became flesh in order to live with us, identify with us, and know us. This is called the incarnation.

Incarnational leadership is a complex term for a simple concept: Good leaders must get out of their own shoes and put on someone else’s. Identify with those you lead by being with them rather than above them, asking them questions and connecting with them emotionally. Get out of your comfort zone, get out of your chair, get into the stable, and get into their shoes.

The Manger: Make People Extraordinary

The only reason most of us are even familiar with the term manger is that there’s a small Scripture reference that says God’s Son was laid in one (Luke 2:7, 16). We don’t know for sure, but it’s likely that the manger was simply a shallow trough carved directly into the stone floor of the stable where Jesus was born. But because God’s Son was laid in a manger, look what happened to an ordinary piece of stone. All of a sudden it had a new dignity. The ordinary became extraordinary—a feed trough for cattle became the cradle of a King. What a transformation!

The simple manger is a symbol of what can happen to an ordinary man or woman when Jesus Christ resides inside. The manger is encouragement that you, in all your ordinariness, can become a leader of extraordinary influence.

A star, a stable, a manger. Learning profound lessons from these simple Christmas objects can transform you into an extraordinary leader who points others to Jesus, identifies with people where they are, and helps them achieve their God-given potential.

By John Maxwell from the NIV Maxwell Leadership Bible

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