You probably can recite the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ gospel parable is a staple of Sunday school classes and Bible studies. By contrasting the generosity of the Samaritan from the actions of the other travelers, Jesus uses the story to teach a core element of Christianity. (I tried to use it once to entice my son to share his candy bar with me, but he missed the theological premise).
The parable also offers lessons for leaders. Jesus included details in his story that can guide us in caring for the people we lead.
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ ”
— Luke 10:33-35
Jesus built three themes into his story that we can apply to our leadership.
1) Be Bold
The Samaritan doesn’t do his work anonymously. He doesn’t drop the traveler at the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run away. Jesus tells us that the Samaritan asks the innkeeper to look after the injured traveler. The Samaritan takes accountability for the traveler’s care.
We should ask ourselves how we could visibly demonstrate care for those we lead.
2) Be Generous
This aspect of the story has always bothered me, indicating a level of personal parsimoniousness that would make my frugal ancestors proud. The Samaritan in Jesus’ story not only gives the innkeeper two silver coins, but declares that he will provide more if it’s needed.
What do the people you lead want from you? It might be better compensation—an appealing reward whether we’re talking about an exhausted church committee volunteer or a young upstart employee itching to make a difference. But more often, people want a more precious commodity—your time. Are you able to say to them, “Here are two hours of my time, and if that’s not enough, I’ll be back tomorrow with more?”
3) Be Committed
I have a tendency to meet the minimum requirement, and no more. For instance, I’ve always felt that a pleasant nod to a coworker in the morning is an adequate greeting (and certainly preferable to engaged conversation). In contrast, the Samaritan does much more. He spends the night tending to the injured man, and then arranges to come back to check on him when he returns from further travels. (Obviously, the Samaritan had more energy than travelers of today, probably because he wasn’t flying through O’Hare.)
The Samaritan makes a serious commitment.
How do those you lead know that you’re committed to them for the long haul? How can you show that you will not abandon them when the going gets tough?
The people you lead may not be laying on the roadside stripped of their clothes and injured (and if they are, then you have a much bigger issue on your hands). But they will definitely appreciate a leader who lives out the elements that Jesus taught in the Samaritan story.
And Jesus will appreciate it, too. After all, the second greatest commandment isn’t higher profit margins or improved workflow efficiency. You know what it is.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And who are your neighbors? They’re the people you work with every day.