Robert Tan Ming Huat

Leadership in Institutions

There must definitely be some form of leadership in any organization irrespective of whether it is in the worldly or spiritual realm. Without which there would be chaos and uncertainty in one form or another. The quality of leadership is a totally different thing and so is the motive behind the leadership. It can be either good or bad.

Only One Supreme Model of Leadership To Be Emulated in Christianity

In Christianity, there is only one supreme model of leadership that all Christians are required to imitate and follow. It is an excellent leadership model because it is God-breathed and demonstrated by Jesus Christ when He was on earth as a God-man. We do not need to surf the websites, read management books and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars listening to and learning the art and characteristics of a good leader.

The Only Manual – the Bible

The Bible is all we need to learn about leadership either in the secular world or in the spiritual world in churches or Christian Organizations and last but not least in the mission field.

Whatever characteristics we can think of and more are all reflected in the Bible and demonstrated by Christ Himself when He was on earth as a God-man, our risen Lord.

Following Jesus as Leader – Leadership by Leading and Example

Jesus would not ask anyone to do anything if He himself does not do it. He leads by example and acts for the benefits of others especially the believers and always for and to the glory of the Father.

Selfless Leadership

Most, if not all, the leaders of the world lead for the benefits of self first and then others, even Christian leaders.

Performance of Miracles

In the New Testament Jesus turned water into wine, healed an invalid, healed the official’s son, fed the 5,000 people or more, walked on water, healed a blind man and raised Lazarus from the dead. All these miracles were done for the benefit of others.

There were, of course, other miracles as stated in John 21:25:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

In other religions and even in Christianity, the leaders (some modern day evangelists) do so for personal glory.

In the case of Islam, Muhammad did not perform any miracle, although several miracles were added to his account later on. As far as Confucius is concerned, he left behind all his wise sayings but no miracles.

Performing miracles is one way to attract people to the leaders.

Some Important Characteristics of a Leader

Generally speaking, we can list, from a secular perspective, several important characteristics of a leader. These include:

  1. Charisma – the strong personal charm or power to attract that makes a person able to have great influence over people or win their admiration.
  2. Aura – an effect or feeling that seems to surround and come from a person.
  3. Great orator.
  4. Passion – strong, deep, often uncontrollable feeling.
  5. Physically beautiful or handsome.
  6. Multilingual abilities.
  7. Rich or famous person in society.
  8. Politician, political nature of dealings with others and on various issues.
  9. Family lineage.
  10. Charitable or social work.
  11. Well educated with tertiary education.
  12. Talented.
  13. Social grace.
  14. Great personality trait and many others.

Jesus’ leadership, while embracing these elements, put people first. Loving God and loving people became his main theme. While these characteristics listed above may be found possibly in some of the leaders of the world, they are not of God’s standards. Context, culture, requirements of the secular world, etc., come to dominate their thinking and styles. Business leadership focuses more on money and profit making rather than on people who really contribute to profit.

God’s Standards

God’s standards are much higher and they include long suffering, forgiveness, obedience, boldness, love, peace, joy, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, self-control and patience.

Missionary Call and Leadership Characteristics

How many of the leaders in the world can demonstrate in any of the virtues if at all? These characteristic traits are the hallmarks the missionaries must carry with them in their missionary journeys. With training and the understanding of these characteristics they will be better prepared to deal with diverse cultural and religious practices in the mission field. Without them they may find the going is tough and may have labored and sowed in vain.

A Contrast Between Gautama Buddha and Jesus

Spiritual Quest of Buddha

An important striking contrast is found in the way Buddha came to experience the world. Jesus knew beforehand what he would be subjected to and why he came to the earth. Jesus’ birth was miraculous, and Buddha’s birth would be described in miraculous terms later on in the Buddhist writings.

Buddha was born around 566 BC; nevertheless he was still a human being just like any of us. He was born into a royal family and stayed in a small kingdom. His parents loved him so much and tried to protect him from seeing the ugly sights of worldly life by confining him within the kingdom.

Despite his isolation he managed to slip out of his home and saw the other side of the natural world of an ugly old man, a suffering sick man, a beggar and a dead person on his way to the royal park. He was shocked and troubled very much in his heart to see all these and did not know what to make of these things.

At the same time as the story continues, he also saw an ascetic on the street who was nonchalant, quiet, and was undisturbed by the things happening around him.

These sights forced him to ponder the meaning of life and why man had to suffer all these miseries in this world. He came to the conclusion that the only thing worthy of pursuit in this world was to find an answer for the riddle of life.

Although Jesus was born to a natural family, He in fact is the Son of God from the heavenly kingdom. He knew his divinity and sought baptism in the hands of John the Baptist on his own.

Social and Familial Responsibility

Buddha was married and had a son. He left them and tried to find the meaning of life by his own effort as a human being. Jesus was totally involved in the lives of others. He assumed responsibility.

In John 19:26 while hanging on the cross Jesus spoke to his mother and the disciple:

When Jesus saw His mother there and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, Dear woman, here is your son, and to the disciple, Here is your mother.”

That shows His concern for His mother and arranged for the disciple to look after His mother. Jesus was not married.

Some Contrasts

  1. Buddha might have gone through many rebirths and is deemed to be one of the 550 Buddhas but Jesus had one birth.
  2. Buddha had beautiful things and people around him but Jesus had lowly fishermen and common people around Him.
  3. Buddha had many stories told about him but Jesus’ life involved only His birth and the last three years of His life and the incidents at the temple during the three years of His ministry.
  4. Buddha did not know what was happening around him but Jesus knows everything from the past, present and the future.
  5. Buddha was experimenting and trying to find the truth but Jesus is the Truth, the way and the life.
  6. Jesus had fore knowledge of things but Buddha was trying very hard to experiment with things.
  7. Buddha died and is no more in existence while Jesus died and rose again. He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
  8. God was never in Buddha’s mind despite him coming from a Hindu family worshipping millions of gods.
  9. Jesus knew He is God by the time He was 12 years. His answer to His mother Mary “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” proves it. Buddha was trying to find out the purpose of his existence. Jesus knew the purpose of His coming to earth.
  10. Buddha died a natural death but Jesus was murdered.
  11. Buddha chose people of noble families, rich, healthy and young people for his disciples but Jesus chose simple, honest and sincere men whose hearts are known to Him.
  12. Buddha advised his disciples to work out their own salvation but Jesus sacrificed His life to give salvation to people.
  13. Buddha wanted to increase power in whatever way he could for his own benefit but God empowers people for their benefits.

Desire, Suffering and Leadership

Buddha enunciated four truths, which underlie Buddhism and its worldview.

  1. Suffering permeates all existence.
  2. Desire is the root cause of all suffering. Desire for possession, and enjoyment leads to suffering. The desire for separate individual existence leads one to further involvement in this life and in its own course leads to further suffering. No desire can ever be satisfied, because fulfillment of one desire will lead to another desire and so on.
  3. Suffering will cease if the beings suppress all their desires. When human passions are totally eliminated, real peace is found.
  4. The cessation of suffering is possible only if we follow the eightfold noble path, which is also called the Middle Way. Perfect detachment from this world and these desires is possible only by following this eightfold path. The Middle Way is the way that avoids both self-indulgence and self-mortification.

Jesus said righteous desire is not wrong. Buddha himself had deep desire to reach nirvana; it is contradictory to what he preached.


I can only conclude that Buddha’s teaching and his leadership made him to do everything in his power to attain salvation for himself. This lacuna was sought to be removed by introducing the theme of Bodhisattva later on in Buddhism. Buddha’s leadership and teaching career started after achieving this individual success. Jesus, on the other hand, was not looking for his personal salvation, etc., and was merely fulfilling what was expected of him. He always does things for His people even to the extent of giving His life for us. Good qualities and good behavior dominate the thinking and teaching of Buddha as a leader, but these and others such as deep love for all creation become the hallmarks of the leadership of Jesus.


An earlier version of this paper was submitted as part of the requirements of the course “Leadership Models Across Religions,” at Bethany International University, taught by Dr. M. S. Thirumalai, under the general guidance of Dr. Sudhir Isaiah. While I am thankful to their guidance, I am solely responsible for the research, content and presentation of this article.

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Robert Tan Ming Huat
Bethany International University

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