Leading At Their Feet
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13: 3-5
Great leadership is a living breathing dichotomy. Bad leadership is a little more common sense and that is why it seems there are more bad leaders than good ones. Default mode turns out to be a bad leadership style.
Leading is serving, not exerting force. All leaders make decisions that affect others, but good leaders make decisions that help those under their care to flourish and grow. Bad leaders just make decisions.
The reason great leadership is a dichotomy is that the high ranker humbles herself to serve the low ranker through leading in the front. When you stand out front and push through the underbrush, you're the one who gets cut and bit by snakes. Those that come after get to walk in your path.
Careless leaders, on the other hand, have their low rankers go in front of them through the thorns so they can walk through without harm. This is fundamentally different in that one serves and the other forces.
Jesus was the greatest leader the world has ever seen, and He was homeless, humble, and plain looking. He cruised into town on a donkey and washed the filth from his buddies' feet. (The modern sanitary system wasn't invented back then, so people walked through all kinds of stuff - and Jesus was glad to stop His dinner to wash the feet of His friends.)
These friends weren't special. They bickered, lied, and betrayed Him. Most of them were regular dudes, fishermen and such. Jesus wasn't kissing the ring or trying to grow His church membership or to increase His status.
He just loved them.
The cross was the ultimate act of servant leadership, if that term isn't too cheap. I think it probably is. But if we rethink the term of servant leadership in Jesus' terms, maybe we can come at leadership from a different angle.
Photo credit: Molly Sabourin via Flickr