When Jesus walked on this earth the Roman Empire ruled a large portion of the known world. The Romans were known for their brutality, their tight-fisted rulership, and their placating style of allowing cultural staples to remain in their conquered people groups in order to maintain control. The leadership of the Jewish people was not much different. The major departure the Sanhedrin and Jewish officials had from the Roman style of leadership was to use the word of God as the rod to force the sheep back into line. They lorded over the Jewish people their holiness, shamed those who fell short and used God’s commands to maintain their power over the people.
The peasant, Jesus of Nazareth, chose to lead in a very different way. He walked among the people with humility, with concern for the well-being of the people he encountered, and he was willing to sacrifice himself for the betterment of those who followed him. Jesus didn’t tell people he was in charge, he didn’t point to his position as the Son of God to arm-twist people into doing what he wanted them to do, he simply stayed on mission and put the needs of others before his own.Jesus modeled servant leadership before it was called servant leadership.
Jesus modeled servant leadership before it was called servant leadership. Not until the 1970’s and Robert Greenleaf was servant leadership a defined leadership style. Over the last 30 years, the academic community has been exploring servant leadership, and the leadership world is just now starting to catch up. Sadly, lesser styles of leadership still dominate organizations, nonprofits, families, and even churches. It is the love of power that captures those in positions of leadership. It is the desire to control others. It is the need to dominate. None of which are characteristics of Jesus’ leadership style. None of which are characteristics of servant leadership.
As leaders, our people deserve better. No matter what area of life you apply leadership, servant leadership is the better choice. It was good enough for Jesus to use in a world that understood servants to be lowly. What he showed was that being a servant was the highest position one can take. And he changed the world with his leadership approach. May we do the same.