The True Nature of Leadership

“Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’; and you are correct, for so I am. So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example so that you also would do just as I did for you.” 

John 13:13-15

Nearly everyone has felt the pressures and hassles of the daily grind. It is like the old saying, “It goes with the territory,” or in other words, we accept the reality of the often redundant tasks, imminent deadlines, and obstacles that we must overcome to achieve a job well-done. However, sometimes the most significant barrier we face does not come from other competing businesses or ambitious colleagues. Instead, sometimes our most significant barrier to doing our day-to-day job is the person in charge, a person who is perhaps untrusting, judgmental, egotistical, narcissistic, self-promoting or a combination thereof.

What does it mean to be a leader of people, or better yet, what is leadership? Leadership is not about how well a person bends and flexes others to achieve success. Instead, it is about how well a person, as the leader, bends and flexes his or herself to help others achieve their success. True leaders invest in their employees to help them learn and grow to become more efficient and capable. Jesus gives us the perfect example of authentic leadership when He, the Creator of all things, God in human form, humbles Himself by washing His disciples’ feet. In those days, the washing of feet was usually the job of a house servant and considered one of the lowest positions.

The example given by Jesus teaches us to put others before ourselves without reservation of their status in the community or their position in a company. Apostle Paul reinforces Jesus’ teaching in his letter to the Philippian church. Paul wrote, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:2-4). You see, the true nature of leadership is to be a servant leader, one who focuses on the growth and well-being of others for the greater good of the community or the business culture of the company. 

But what can I do when my boss is more of an obstacle than a servant leader? Great question! One that Paul answers in his letter for the church in Rome. Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people” (Rom. 12:18). Paul recognized that there would be people we encounter who prefer to be all about themselves, those who overinflate themselves routinely and showboat only for the sake of others to see. The peace that Paul refers to comes when we refuse to allow a root of bitterness towards others to fester within ourselves. If we allow bitterness to take root in our hearts, we suffer at our own expense, and even worse, it can hinder our relationship with God.

The best way to contend with someone in charge who is more of an obstacle than an enabler is, first and foremost, prayer. The second is to focus on being a servant leader to those around you. You may discover that many of your colleagues are dealing with the same struggle, that same obstacle, so by lifting each other, you will enable each other, and in the midst of it all, the light of Christ will shine brightly in you.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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