When asked if you want to be first or last in the race, naturally we all want to be first. Of course we do, right? Winning is awesome. 1 Corinthians 9:24 goes so far as to tell us to run the race to win. [Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!] Remember here, context is key and we can’t miss the prior is telling us all is done for the sake of the gospel, so that we may share in its blessings. Changes the purpose and tone of winning according to the worldly views, doesn’t it? What does that mean for Christian leadership in a management role?
As Christian managers, given authority over others, we need not look much further than our Bible for leadership lessons. The greatest leader of all time is Jesus and the Bible is the primary source for learning. We cannot forget in 2 Timothy 3:16 we are told all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. There is no other book that comes before nor other source we should find direction in. Our only direction, outside the Bible, should come from books that directly compliment and assist in further explaining the principles found in scripture.
The greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ. The Son of Man, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords did not come to be served, but to serve and give the ultimate sacrifice of laying His life down for us. (Not sure I’m ready for that kind of leadership! How about you?!) He came to serve and the example he set is obviously modeled in the concept of Servant Leadership being popularly taught and sold in numerous management books today. I love when the “new concepts” can be tied directly back to biblical principles.
While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader”, an essay that he first published in 1970. (Greenleaf, R. (1991). The servant as leader ([Rev. ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.)
Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy. Traditional leadership generally involves the exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership turns the power pyramid upside down; instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they unlock purpose and ingenuity in those around them, resulting in higher performance and engaged, fulfilled employees. (“What Is Servant Leadership”. Servant Leadership Institute. Servant Leadership Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2017.)
Do you see that – there is a whole Institute on this style of leadership. Now, let’s walk through the scriptures on just a few of the leadership style of Jesus.
Whoever wants to be a Leader among you, must first be a servant, and whoever wants to be first shall be servant to all. Mark 10:43-45. The word used here for servant is similar to “waiter” as in a subservient or humble role. Through Jesus, the leadership model is clearly;
- Care for your team’s human needs. You would assume they are coming to work they are getting physiological needs met, but are they getting their other needs met? Do they feel like part of the group and accepted? Are they confident and recognized for their accomplishments? Do they feel fulfilled and see a growth plan?
- Grow your team. Seek the best for each team member’s personal growth, even as we seek the best for our organization. The people make the company. Grow your people.
- Show authority with humility. Essential to leadership, is humility, because it authenticates a person’s humanity. This gives an avenue to not only show your accomplishments but your character as well and thus, inspire your team toward greatness.
- Respect your team. Plain and simple.
Jesus examples this in washing the disciples feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. John 13:15. I am not suggesting you wash your team’s feet. Surely there is a time and place for such an intimate act of service, however the message from Jesus to His disciples is clear to follow His example in the heart of this act of service.
- You accomplish goals when you meet the needs of others. Allow yourself to become the one on your team seeking out the needs of the rest and meet them.
- Your God honoring behavior is going to benefit your team. By behaving in a Christ-like manner, the work of the kingdom is being done.
- You lead best by helping others achieve their goals.
- Do humble acts of service. This might be as simple as going last in line at the team lunch or getting the trash up afterwards.
There is so much that can be learned from the leadership of King David it would be hard to encompass it all in one small section. In relation to his servant characteristics, I believe we see his humility (2 Samuel 7:8) and patience (Psalm 27:14) in the Lord before he even took the throne. With God the primary focus, David’s life embodies long term personal, professional and spiritual growth.
- After being anointed King, David went back to shepherding awaiting the Lord’s timing.
- David willingly played music, on demand, for King Saul.
- David still served his brothers as guided by his father.
Additionally, a strong leader recognizes their team’s interdependence. Paul, in the book of Romans, clearly shows this model from the church. [Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another. Romans 12:4-5.] If the entire church is dependent on one another to function in a healthy manner, naturally each team member has value in our teams. The team needs to be keenly aware of their individual roles in team’s successes and is best served by a leader who nurtures the relationships inside the team as sums of the greater whole.
FIRST or LAST? The biblical model of leadership tells us to be first (or rather to lead), we elect to be last. This model, obviously, adapted from scripture by Greenleaf when he coined the term “Servant Leader” in the early 1970s. [What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9]
The best leaders, the leaders most likely to impact the people entrusted to them, the leaders making large scope impact for the kingdom of the gospel and ultimately giving the best to their particular organization, follow the leadership model described and lived by Jesus Himself.
To be your best leaders, follow Him.
You’ve got this! Ashlee Gillis Vickers, CPC