Mark 10:43-44. Jesus said, “But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to beome great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”
Throughout my adult life, I have had the privilege to serve in a variety of leadership roles, both in my professional and volunteer activities. But despite these opportunities to practice leadership, it has taken me a long time to figure out that Jesus truly got it right in his admonition to the disciples about leadership in Mark’s Gospel.
Our culture extols the strong, charismatic leader who leads from the “front” with a follow me I’m right approach. This is the leadership style we see so often from our business and political leaders, and although this approach to leadership can be effective, it often creates division and strife. It often does not value listening or welcome differing opinions. It demands obedience and it can be very black and white. It is often us versus them and we are right. It creates winner and losers. And the list goes on! Jesus turns all of this on its head. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ and in Mark, Jesus takes this to the next level for leaders. He tells us that to be a leader, not only do we have to love those we lead as we love ourselves, but we must be their servant!
Wow! This is not the leaders we see on the television news, and it is not the leadership style that is predominate in our culture. So how does this add up? Once more, Jesus is telling us do something that is radically different from what society is telling us to do – something based in love and servanthood! So, what does Jesus leadership look like? It is love. It is valuing and respecting all. It is truly listening and welcoming different opinions. It embraces “gray.” It is “both and” not “either or.” It is not winners and losers. It is doing the work together. It is patient and humble. It is in the middle, not out front. It is doing for others and serving their needs first.
As I am called to leadership these days, I aspire to be a Jesus leader. I admit that I don’t always get it right, but I know in my heart and soul that Jesus got it right.