When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
In the passage above we see that Jesus (post resurrection) has made his way to Galilee to speak specifically with Peter. In this exchange, Jesus offers us some great insight into leadership. Jesus shows us five things that can have a huge impact on the way we lead and on the people we’ve been given to lead.
1. We should not quickly give up on those we lead.
If any of the disciples could have been excluded from building the Church, it would be Peter. Jesus both predicted and saw Peter deny Him during the time of His crucifixion. I really believe that if in this passage we read that Jesus spent time with the other ten guys and specifically excluded Peter, we would think that ok. But Jesus shows us something different. He chose not to give up on Peter. He chose to take Peter’s past mistakes and forgive them and use them to instruct Peter on how to improve.
We should be slow to give up on people who experience failures. We should use those failures as opportunities to coach the person up and provide second chances. The easy thing to do is to ‘cut bait’. Jesus shows us here that leadership isn’t supposed to be easy and that sometimes its our willingness to give someone another chance will lead them to greatness… which is what Jesus got out of Peter.
2. We should give special attention to those who are new and make sure we cast clear vision.
Here we see that in the midst of restoring Peter that Jesus is also casting specific and clear vision for the Church. He tells Peter that in leading the Church he will need to focus on three specific things. Jesus tells Peter, I believe, to reach the lost (feed lambs), utilize the believers in the ministry (tend the sheep) and to help the believers grow in their faith (feed the sheep).
Building the Church was a new thing Jesus would begin to build under Peter’s leadership. Jesus wanted to make sure Peter knew exactly how that would happen. As leaders, we must take the time to let those who are new to our team or when we’re pursuing something new, exactly what the goal is and how we think we can accomplish that goal. Too often, we add to the team or take a new direction but forget the most important thing our team needs from us, clear vision.
3. We should care more about how the team is doing than what they are doing.
Again from the initial exchange, we see that Jesus wants Peter to know that he is fully forgiven. I think Jesus knows that for Peter to be at his best, he needs to be able to get beyond the fact that he had denied Jesus. Jesus could have just said to Peter, “you’re forgiven”, but Jesus cared enough about Peter to go the extra mile to make sure Peter’s soul was at peace.
As leaders, I think our priority has to be the emotional and spiritual health of the ones we lead. If we take the time to know the individuals on our team and find ways to encourage them toward this health, we’ll get better production from them. We don’t overlook poor production, but in so many cases poor production is tied to poor emotional and spiritual health.
4. We must push the team to grow.
After all the heart felt, nice guy attributes we see from Jesus to this point, Jesus turns up the heat on Peter. He tells Peter that things are going to be harder than anything he has experienced to this point. He tells Peter that its not only going to be hard, but that his efforts to build the Church will cost him his life. So, Jesus tells Peter… be ready!
As leaders, we have to be gracious, patient and caring. We also have to get things done. We are not helping our team if we aren’t honest with them. Everyone on the team needs to be at their best so that the team will be at its best. Its the leaders responsibility to have everyone ready. This means that the leader must push the individuals on the team to go beyond their comfort zone.
5. We must focus on our own mission not fall into the comparison trap.
Just after Peter hears that things are about to get harder for him, he turns and points to John and says, “what about him?” Peter obviously doesn’t want to be the only guy who will face tough times. Jesus quickly calls Peter out on this and tells him to stop worrying about the things He would ask others to do for the Church. Jesus tells Peter to not worry about John but to “Follow Me”.
One of the worst traps we can put ourselves in as leaders or allow our team to slip into is the comparison trap. When we take our focus off of what we’ve been asked to do and begin to worry about what others are being asked to do, we lose. We all want to think everyone is pulling their weight, but we want to be the judge of that. Jesus tells us that we are to keep our focus on our own calling and mission and let Him worry about everyone else.