Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Leadership Paradox

Leaders come last willingly. This is a shocking thing to just say and most people would be strongly tempted to simply refute it as garbage outright, but hear me out, especially you non-Jesus-following people.

Read and reflect on the example of leadership through Jesus:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” –John 13:3-5 (TNIV).

The context of the above passage was most likely related to Jesus’ response to the disciples’ squabbling over whom among them would be greatest in the kingdom of God.[1] As Paul mentions in Philippians 2 regarding the cross, Jesus, “taking the very nature of a servant... humbled himself” and washed their feet. Jesus’ actions spoke louder than words. ‘Want to be the greatest... want to be a leader? – Start by serving,’ is what he’s saying.

The best leaders have the overall goals of the team or objective firmly in mind and in their hearts. Their needs are not met by getting their own way; actually, when a good leader gets his or her own way it means they inevitably don’t get things for themselves but the overall objectives are close to being met.

Therein lays the leadership paradox. Good leadership doesn’t come without sacrifice; respected leaders simply don’t (and can’t) have selfish agendas.

Jesus was showing by example what he expected his disciples to do. Leadership is about serving, and certainly the preparedness to serve so others following can catch on and so forth. Leadership is role modelling the servant heart--to serve one another. That’s ‘team.’

The most perfect example of leadership is Jesus. His example is a paradoxical example, and it doesn’t make sense to the selfish, ambitious, worldly leader bent on his or her own goals. The folly of this form of leadership is followers disappear or slowly mutiny the leader’s authority by quiet dissent.

People usually can’t serve a leader who’s in any way in it for themselves.

Jesus turns the powerbase on its head. The true leader in the ‘Jesus-tradition’ achieves unparalleled respect and power as followers willingly submit to them, who can not only submit for the cause, but does so willingly, and does so routinely--these leaders are the epitome of healthy, creative, cheerful and leading submission.

They receive respect and power without even trying--it simply comes as they obey the ancient laws of leadership wisdom.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Selwyn Hughes, “The Four Marks of a Healthy Personality,” in Spoken from the Heart (Surrey, England: Crusade for World Revival, 2005), p. 101.

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