Tough-Minded Or Tender-Hearted Leadership?

Jesus is arguably the most successful leader of all times. In only three and half years, He gathered a small group of followers together and changed the world. Today, Jesus has billions of followers who are doing His work in every corner of the earth. No other leader compares to His success.

When I look at the life of Jesus and His leadership style, two main characteristics stand out to me. He was tough-minded in His mission and tender-hearted in His ministry. One moment He would take on the religious leaders of the day and put them in their place and the next moment He would take a small child in His lap and bless them. Jesus knew when to be tough-minded and when to be tender-hearted.


Tough-minded but tender-hearted. How do we achieve that balance in our leadership and learn to lead like Jesus? Here are some leadership lessons to learn from Jesus’ leadership style.

Tough-minded on focus and tender-hearted in flexibility. Jesus was always very tough-minded about His mission on earth but tender-hearted in His love and giving ~ (John 3:16-17). Great leaders need focus to gain success, but they must be flexible and agile in all circumstances to be truly successful.

Tough-minded on values and tender-hearted in appreciation. Jesus was tough-minded about His core values: Love God and people ~ (Matthew 22:35-40). But He was also tender-hearted in His appreciation of His disciples ~ (Matthew 16:13-19). Great leaders understand that their values are the stamp of their leadership, but they will go out of their way to show appreciation for others; for who they are and what matters to them.

Tough-minded about creativity and tender-hearted in imagination. Jesus always showed great creativity in His teaching and healing ~ (Mathew 13:31-34 +  Mark 8:22-26). Great leaders know that creativity is the essence of innovation, but they must be soft-hearted enough to engage and embrace the imagination of others if they want to fuel innovation.

Tough-minded toward vision and tender-hearted in valor. Jesus had a clear vision of what He needed to accomplish in His short time on earth ~ (Matthew 16:21-26). Jesus also encouraged His disciples to grow on their own ~ (Luke 10:1-20). Great leaders know to be successful they must have a clear and succinct vision so others know the direction, but they must also encourage acts of courage, flexibility, and boldness to ensure that their vision is successfully achieved.

Tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted about purpose. Jesus never compromised His standards ~ (Matthew 28:18-20). Great leaders understand you must not compromise on standards, but they also recognize that each person has their own purpose, and they allow others to express their meaning ~ (Matthew 16:13-20).

Tough-minded on accountability and tender-hearted in admiration. Jesus knew that there was a price to pay for change and encouraged His disciples in the correct attitudes to accomplish that change ~ (Matthew 20:17-28). Great leaders knows they must show results and be responsible, but an important aspect of their success is acknowledging and appreciating those who have helped them secure those results.

When we have confidence in our people, and we treat them with a tender heart, they trust us with the tough decisions and stick with us through even the toughest times.

(Adapted from

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