What’s NOT Christian Leadership? Learning from Jesus’ Condemnation of Toxic Leader Exemplars in the New Testament

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Richard Mark Bell


The development of a distinctly Christian leadership construct is presented by examining what is clearly not Christian leadership. The relevant question in this study is how did Jesus describe leadership He did not prefer? The importance of Christian leadership as a question is addressed, common responses are examined, and ultimately a different approach to the question is followed. Toxic leadership theory is reviewed in general, in specific, and several consequences of the theory are noted. Jesus’ rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-7 is analyzed with a social and cultural texture method. The results of the analysis indicate the Jewish leaders were toxic leader exemplars. Jesus’ rebuke of the toxic leader exemplars of His day provides insight into what constitutes a Christian leader because whatever Christian leadership is, it cannot be toxic in nature. A new leadership construct emerges from the analysis called healthy leadership. Healthy leadership is understood as the antithesis of toxic leadership. Six dimensions of healthy leadership are found as respectful oversight, volitional leadership, altruism, stable consistency, follower advocate, and sincere integrity. Descriptions of each dimension are provided. Several recommendations for current executive leaders are noted. Future research needs are discussed especially including the development of a validated survey instrument to measure healthy leadership.


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Bell, R. (2019). What’s NOT Christian Leadership?. Theology of Leadership Journal, 2(1), 56-72. Retrieved from http://theologyofleadership.com/index.php/tlj/article/view/63