Jesus on Leadership

I quote a lot of people. Quotes are a great way to encapsulate a nugget of truth and also to summon the authority and reputation of the speaker. Great quotes are inspiring, calling us to a new elevation, above our normal attitude and outside our everyday circumstances to a place of nobility; where Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela lived.

On Easter, I thought it might be good to quote the person I consider to be the best leader ever, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had an interesting slant on leadership. His understanding of the human condition was above and beyond any education he could have received. He had an understanding of people that could not be explained by his past as was evidenced by eyewitness accounts during his life.

It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you, shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. - Jesus

Up until his time, most leaders were monarchs or military leaders based on rank and position. Leadership wasn't a very noble profession. In fact, it was probably much worse than today. But in Jesus time, no one did public opinion polls. The public served the leaders. It was pretty black and white.

Once, some of Jesus' disciples asked if they could sit at his right hand when he came into power (Matthew 20:20-24 and Mark 10:35-41). They wanted to be at the pinnacle of authority. Their assumption was based on the way leadership worked in that time. They wanted the best position. In fact, this was probably a regular point of contention among the 12 men closest to Jesus. (See Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:34.)

Jesus answered them, "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave." (Matthew 20:26-27) He said something similar on many other occasions as well. (See Matthew 19:14, 19:30, 20:16, Mark 9:35, and Luke 13:30.)

Jesus is simply asserting the value of servant leadership; the very model he applied. Jesus never coerced people to follow him. He never manipulated. He simply stated facts. He said he was here to serve (vs. 28) and so anyone willing to truly lead must truly serve.

People are most free when they choose to follow. Leaders who serve their people find energized volunteers rather than "puppets" or "resources." Servant leaders inspire cooperation and contribution. People choose to respect, cooperate with, even follow people they believe operate in their best interests.

So today, think about how you can serve your team better. How can you put them first? If your team properly understands the vision, you might be surprised at the progress they make pursuing it if you stop trying to pull them to the vision and just serve them in their pursuit. You demonstrate respect, trust and confidence when you serve your teammates. And your best teammates, and your team, will flourish in response.


Scripture references New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.