If you work, you have a boss. However, not everyone has a leader. As John Maxwell said, a leader is anyone who has influence. Taking it a step further, leadership is the ability to influence people to voluntarily follow. In the work place, leaders need teams who will not only follow but happily follow for a long time.
This is why I’m a total believer in servant leadership. Servant leaders are all about the long haul. They invest in their teams. They understand their primary job is to serve their team members so they can flourish, and as a result the organization will flourish and last. Servant leadership is the only way to achieve this.
Why am I so declarative about this? Jesus led this way.
In John chapter 13, Jesus modeled servant leadership by washing his disciples’ feet. Now, I’m not advocating you should plop down next to a co-worker this week with a bucket of hot water, a loufa and some liquid soap. You may get kicked by the foot you planned to scrub, but I am advocating following Jesus’ lead here.
I’m not the first person, of course, to use this as an example of servant leadership. It’s quite a popular story to use. That said, the full context is often left out, which makes it that much more compelling of a leadership example.
In short, the story was this. Jesus knew he would be betrayed by one of his followers, and as a result, he would die. Therefore, as the Bible says in John 13:1, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love,” and in John 13:5, “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
Did you get that? He washed the feet of the follower who would betray him, which would lead to His death, as a final way to express His love. Wow. Besides being the son of God and being a better miracle worker than Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, is there any doubt why these men followed him?
Later in the story, Jesus said in John 13:13-15, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
In other words, we should model Jesus’ humble behavior by serving one another this way. Is it any surprise the best teams are made up of people who have each other’s back and gladly help one another? You don’t hear, “That’s not my job” out these teams. Members of high-performing teams “wash one another’s feet.”
Long after Jesus died, was resurrected and later descended into heaven, Jesus’ team – his disciples – persisted in spreading Jesus’ word until their very brutal deaths. No one made them do it. They could have simply dissolved into the world. But, rather, they voluntarily took up Jesus’ cause and made it their own. This could have only been done as a result of a leader who loved their followers and served them well.
Question: Have you witnessed a good example of servant leadership?