In “Generation to Generation,” Edwin Friedman gives this definition of a leader: “A self-defined person with a non-anxious presence.”

Consider Jesus’ example. Notice the clarity he embodies as he moves through his relationships, through his world. At age twelve, he’s in the temple, discussing the Law with the priests. Once his parents find him, his mother demands an explanation for his behavior. Jesus replies with a question: “Didn’t you know that I must be about my father’s business?” [Luke 2:49]

Later, his brothers press him to go to the Feast, reasoning that a public figure cannot rally a following without having high profile visibility at important cultural gatherings.

Jesus’ response was interesting.

He didn’t say: “Wow, you’re right! How am I going to establish a movement if I don’t show the world who I am and what I have to say?” Nor did he say: “Quit giving me your stupid advice! For the last time, I’m not interested in becoming a political leader. Sheesh, you just don’t get it!”

As a self-defined person, he says: “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” [John 7:2-8]

–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at


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