Leadership Lessons from the Nativity

December 6, 2018
By: John C. Maxwell
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.



Scripture says the star the wise men saw “in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matt. 2:9, 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.


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.

The profound lesson of that simple stable urges you to be an incarnational leader. My good friend Michael Hyatt, a leadership expert and former CEO of Thomas Nelson, says, “If you are going to be an effective leader, you must be able to enter your followers’ world. In fact, if you are going to influence anyone or anything— your employees, a client, your spouse, or even your kids— you are going to have to get really good at incarnational leadership.”

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 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.


NKJV, Maxwell Leadership Bible

Bestselling author John C. Maxwell’s signature leadership principles are drawn straight from the Bible. This 3rd Edition of the Maxwell Leadership Bible brings those lessons together with the Scriptures, including brand new inspiring content, and a new a full-color redesign featuring NKJV Comfort Print.

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