Delegation is central to effective leadership. Most leaders would agree. So, why is it so hard to do well?
Leaders struggle with delegating for a variety of practical reasons:
- We fear we won’t have enough time to explain the task.
- We fear giving up control.
- We fear we won’t get any of the credit.
- We fear it won’t get done well.
Let’s look at how Jesus delegated an important task to Simon Peter, a task given to all who follow Christ. As you read the passage below, imagine you are having this conversation with Jesus and that He is addressing you personally. Read through it two or three times and enjoy what God may want to say to you!
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” – John 21:15-17 (ESV)
What caught your attention as you read through this well-known passage of scripture? There are numerous commentaries on this passage that help us to understand more of what Jesus may have been up to. These commentaries discuss what original words Jesus used for the word “love” and how they changed as he asked Peter these questions. There are commentaries of what he meant by lambs and sheep. All of these commentaries are good and helpful.
However, what has drawn my attention most recently is how utterly relational Jesus is as He delegated significant responsibility, trust and power to Peter. The point Jesus seemed to be driving home is: “Simon Peter, over and above the important work we have to do, I want to know that you want to do this with me.”
Some commentaries suggest Jesus knew how challenging the work of feeding His sheep would be. He knew Peter would need Him desperately to do it, and so He was reinforcing the importance of a love relationship with Him. Of course, any Kingdom work must be empowered by our relationship with Jesus!
But I see so much more in this passage. I see Jesus wanting Peter to remain in relationship with Him through it all for the simple sake of the relationship itself.
Now if you love me, take a look at this (I couldn’t resist):
She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:44-48 (ESV)
Notice anything? Power had gone from Jesus and brought healing. Cool stuff right there. But, what did Jesus do? He first asked who touched Him.
This may not be the most theologically pure statement but I believe with all my heart it is consistent with the heartbeat of scripture as a whole:
Jesus is not content to transfer power unless it happens relationally.
- He immediately made it personal.
- He immediately sought to connect.
- He immediately invited the woman (and us) to come out of hiding.
- Once he had established relational connection, he blessed.
Do you see the profound implications that arise when leaders learn to delegate and lead like Jesus?
First, we must be aware of our own power derived from union with God. We start with cultivating space in our lives to routinely listen for God’s still small voice, to cultivate an ongoing awareness of the divine working within us.
Secondly, we follow where Jesus’ love and power is flowing. We follow Jesus into relationships and do our work there.
Lastly, as leaders we lead others (or go relationally with others) to where Jesus is building His Kingdom of peace. This always returns us to a posture of listening and creating space to hear His voice.
As we listen, follow and lead as Kingdom leaders, we will find that we have time to explain the task (did you catch Jesus had just had breakfast with Peter?) because time together is a prerequisite to any good relationship. We will find we won’t fear giving up control as much because we’ve followed the One in control. We will find we want Jesus to get all the credit. And we won’t fear our tasks won’t get done well because we will have made our primary task loving Jesus and others. When has Jesus ever made the outcome of what we do more important than the relationship we have with Him?
As I learn to lead and delegate as a follower of Jesus, I want to do it in a way that I hear Jesus saying, “Do you love me? Love them, too. That’s more important than what you invite them to do.”