So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 (NRSV)
As someone who has a grandchild who is soon to be a kindergartner, it is fun to observe how black and white her sense of justice and fairness can be. It’s either all or nothing to a five year old, and it can be a challenge to show her how to negotiate solutions with others and to learn to meet in the middle.
She does understand the chain of command very well though. She knows that only certain adults have the authority to set her boundaries and to set standards for her behavior. One of her favorite expressions when another child tries to tell her what to do is, “You’re not the boss of me!” She knows that other children don’t have authority over her, and she doesn’t abide bullies for long. Good for her. Being a bully toward others only garners very short term, if any, results.
Jesus was trying to explain true leadership to His disciples. Being a good leader has nothing to do with wielding power over others. It has everything to do with serving others, encouraging others, and being the good example for others.
Good leadership involves sacrifice. How can a leader expect others to meet their potentials if he or she is not willing to live out the example? Who really wants to work longer hours, or go above and beyond the minimum requirements for a boss who cuts out early to play golf, who is rude and condescending, or who simply dictates from afar?
Good leadership involves empathy. If we know what is involved in sacrifice and serving, then we should have compassion and empathy for those around us as they strive to live out their vocations. Jesus was as human as we are. When his friends were hurting, He grieved. When His friend Lazarus died, He wept.
Good leadership involves working together with others. We should be willing to help and to model best practices. Sometimes the best solutions for everyone require us to brainstorm and find the best compromise.
Good leadership calls for mutual respect, and to regard the needs of others before our own needs.
How are we being good leaders- by being good servants- today?