Michael Hyatt: The Incarnational Principle of Leadership…

Mark 3:14 (New International Version 1984)

14 He appointed twelve—designating them apostles[a]—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt is the Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson Publishers. And he has a great blog on leadership that I subscribe to.

His post this morning really hit home with me. It built on what The Navigators call the “with him” principle—the idea that principles and values are often more caught than taught. Michael calls it The Incarnational Principle of Leadership, and it really spoke to me.

But it’s more than just inviting followers into your world so they can observe your life and follow your example. He drills down into something I myself have longed for from the various mentors God has brought into my life over the years.

As leaders (mentors, disciplers), we need to join our followers in their world.

Here’s how he says it:

If you are going to be an effective leader, you must be able to enter into your followers’ world. In fact, if you are going to influence anyone for anything—whether it is your boss, your employees, a client, your spouse, or even your kids—you are going to have to get really good at incarnational leadership.

This leadership principle is based on the Christian teaching that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a). Imagine that: God entered into our world in order to bring us back to Himself.

We need to observe our followers and mentees in their everyday life. We need to experience their perspective, not just hear about it at sharing time. This includes enjoying the things they enjoy. With them.

There’s a family Carol and I are mentoring and it’s become pretty all-consuming (there’s a topic for another blog post!). Recently they found themselves involved in a Child Protective Services issue and so we have temporary supervision of their youngest child.

This has resulted in this family spending (even more) time in our home and us taking turns spending time in their home, including some overnights. In the few weeks we’ve been going through this together, they’ve been able to observe us and we’ve been able to observe them in a way that wasn’t happening before. And, for both families, it’s changed some perceptions as we share experiences.

There are some things we’ve tried to teach them that they haven’t been learning. Until now. Now they’re able to see the difference between some of our choices and some of their choices. They see some skills that we have that they could use in their own lives. And we’ve had to draw some tough boundaries. But they know in a way they haven’t known before that we understand and we care.

Here’s where I get my own vision of this dynamic:

Philippians 2:5-7 (New International Version 1984)

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.


Hebrews 4:15 (New International Version 1984)

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Jesus really did experience what we’re experiencing. We can look at his life and our life and see the differences—and the commonalities. And, with God’s help, we can make the adjustments.

And, scary as it may seem, we can provide the same opportunities for the people we lead.

Michael’s post is worth the read. Get the whole thing here.


  1. What are some ways you’re involving yourself in the lives of the people you lead?
  2. Where are you coming up short?

Explore some more:

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple-Maker, “The Character of a Leader,” pages 181-196.

Gary W. Kuhne, The Dynamics of Personal Follow-Up, “Developing a Meaningful Relationship with a new Believer,” pages 53-69.


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