Leadership Is (Can Be?) Service

Servant Leadership

Jesus said, “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. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant…” (Mark 10:42-43)

There is a misconception about leadership in our culture. It comes from watching the leaders of the world lead in some ways that seem to be more about bluster, power and control than they do about service. Watching the presidential debates for even a few minutes can leave one saying, “I want nothing to do with leading. I just want to serve.” This is a trend, not only in public life, but also in all aspects of our lives. People want to serve but see leadership as something they wish someone else would do.

Jesus says the above in response to James and John’s request for a good and prominent position in Jesus’ glory. They have little idea what they are asking for – the glory of Jesus will come in Mark’s gospel when Jesus is crucified. He has told them that fact three times, but they still don’t understand. They simply sense that there is something very powerful about Jesus and that he will need sidekicks when he is finally in charge. They hope to be in charge of something when that happens, too.

But what Jesus says is that good leadership is service. That is so important that it bears repeating. Good leadership is service. It doesn’t ask, “What power can I draw to myself?” Rather it asks, “How can I use this role to help others use their gifts and talents to make the world look more like God’s dream for it?” The focus of servant leadership is helping people accomplish what God wants them to accomplish.

Many of us would simply like opportunities to serve. But these opportunities don’t always emerge from nowhere. Often someone or a team of people has spent time and energy seeking options, making connections and organizing activities. This allows others to plug in and help as well. But without leaders, all of us find ourselves with fewer options to make a difference and with lives that are less purposeful as a result.

So, remember that in order for all of us to use our gifts well, some of us need to offer time and energy to lead. This is not a chance to “be in charge” as much as it is a chance to “serve for the good of all.” Servant leadership shapes life together for community of servants. That is a service we all need to shape a vision that we all desire.

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