Leadership is a hot topic these days. In fact, it’s been a hot topic for at least the last two or three decades. There have been countless books, conferences, websites and other material devoted to helping people become better leaders.
But ironically, the best leadership principle is not really about leadership at all: it’s about servanthood. In the passage above, we see the greatest leader of all time setting aside his power, position and prestige in order to become a servant.
But we mere mortals have a hard time letting go of our ideas about leadership, don’t we? Even in settings that devoted to ministry, such as Christian colleges and churches (two settings in which I’ve spent considerable time), it’s tempting to want to hang on to worldly ideas about titles and position.
Yet here in these verses, we see Jesus setting the example of servant-leadership.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2.5-11, ESV]
Allow me to suggest four reasons we should be like Jesus and practice servanthood in our own lives:
1. Being a servant is the best way to influence others. When you on the attitude of a servant, you are looking out for others’ best interests. You want them to succeed and you find ways to help them. This is a much better way to influence others than trying to constantly pull rank on people and prove that you are the one really in charge.
2. Being a servant brings the most joy. Honestly, it’s just a lot more fun to help others succeed than only focusing on yourself. There is a depth of joy that comes from contributing to others’ success that you cannot find when you are focused on your own.
3. Being a servant is the closest you will get to modeling the leadership of Jesus. Jesus pointed the way to an upside-down kingdom: one where the first is last, and the greatest is the one who serves. When you focus on others instead of yourself, that’s when you are the most like Christ.
4. Being a servant fulfills the purpose of leadership. If the purpose of leadership is influencing others, then servanthood is the most effective path to being a great leader. We see this principle modeled in the great leaders of history: Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others. They all focused on serving others at their own expense.
Make no mistake: You are a leader. You don’t need a title or a position to influence others. You simply need to serve.
My Challenge For You
In the next 24 hours I challenge you to view your life through the lens of a servant. In your family time, job, church and community involvement, and all your relationships, how can you serve others more effectively?
Remember, being a servant doesn’t mean that you are servile. It also doesn’t mean that you ignore your own needs. It just means you are looking out for the best interests of others.