Jesus brought a whole new understanding to the concept of leadership. He is the first person to have associated the term humility with what it means to be a great leader, and he remains the ultimate example of servant leadership.
When James and John were fighting over who got the best seating position in the Kingdom of heaven, Jesus offered one of the greatest ever definitions of leadership; that leaders are there not to boss others around, but to become the servants of those they are leading.
One question often asked is, how far are servant leaders expected to go in their service of people? At what point does servanthood become exploitation of a leader? Jesus gives instructive examples; if someone takes your coat, give them your shirt too. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t expect to receive anything in return.
Jesus teaches us to live out a radical level of servant leadership, where we serve people to the point of sacrifice. Rather than leadership being something that guarantees us perks, Jesus talks about leadership as something that will always costs us something. Perhaps cost in terms of material goods, as we freely give to those who are in need. Or perhaps costing us even more. Jesus went to a place of execution because of his commitment to those people he was seeking to lead. He truly served to the point of true sacrifice.
Our attitude is to be the same as that of Christ Jesus. What does our leadership cost us? Are we prepared to constantly serve those we are leading? Even serve to the point of sacrifice, to the point where it hurts us? This is the servant leadership that Jesus models to us.
What we are prepared to suffer for shows us what we truly value. If we lead from a place of true calling, and serious commitment to people and causes, we will be prepared to make sacrifices in pursuing God’s call on our lives. If we lead from a place of ease and entitlement, we will be more likely to quit when the going gets tough, and when there is a cost to us. Servant leadership involves sacrifice, but it becomes possible when we are leading due to God’s call, not to satisfy our own pride.
Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.