But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

Luke 22:26

 

Capitol building in Washington, D.C.It’s election season in the United States again, and the country is about to choose its next President. As with many other election cycles, political consultants are in full-swing shaping the narratives and the images of their candidates. A typical day on the campaign trail includes high-level strategy meetings and debate-prep sessions centered around making the candidates look like strong leaders. A leader must be confident, a real know it all, and above all well liked. Let’s not forget error-free. At least that is what leadership has come to be defined as.

Current Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has espoused the line “Make America Great Again”. His rhetoric suggests that he would attempt to restore the United States from its perceived fall from grace, to a place of dignity, wealth, and superiority. At some point, according to Trump, this country strayed from its position as the leader among nations. To regain our position as Number One, he says we must be tough, free from political correctness; and able to fight fire with fire.

Hillary Clinton is widely perceived as well versed on the policy issues that this nation faces. However, many critique her leadership because of her cold demeanor and perceived lack of empathy. So, there you have it, a genuine tug of war to gain the monopoly on leadership.

But what is leadership? I mean, we have genuine expectations of our leaders, but what is authentic leadership? Would you know it if you saw it? Is leadership defined by a gentle humble demeanor, or a rough “get it done no matter what” disposition? We struggle with choosing leaders because we don’t know how to define true leadership.

As a political consultant, I sometimes fear that we have spent too much time shaping people to look like leaders instead of actually being leaders. We are more focused on the cosmetics than the substance of what leadership requires. As Christian leaders, it is important that we not fall into the shallow definitions that the world offers on leadership. It is imperative that we redeem leadership by using the lens of the scriptures. To amend Trump’s tagline, we must make leadership great again.

In the Gospel of Luke, we see the disciples in a heated battle over leadership. They were engaged in a competition on who among them was the greatest. In their context, leadership was ego-driven and based on individual success and achievement. Who knew Jesus the longest? Who was the most faithful follower? Who was the most qualified? It sounds similar to the ways that we define leadership today. Jesus, however, had not only come to redeem mankind, but also humanity’s understanding of leadership. To Jesus, true power took on the form of compassionate humility and leadership took on the form of servanthood. It was a radical ideal that challenged the insecurities of his disciples. This form of leadership required them to use their privileged positions to benefit others, and to do this with the purest of motives.

According to Christ’s teaching, we should choose leaders who embody service to others before themselves. They should undoubtedly have the proper qualifications and resources to make life better. However, their most endearing quality must always be servanthood — or as we call it, servant leadership. This type of leadership is inspirational, empowering, and uplifting. It is the type of leadership that causes the collective “we” to rise together. Christ, the greatest among us, took on the form of the servant of all. As a result of this powerful act, the many who will believe in Christ are raised together and restored to a place of power in his Kingdom.

All of us are leaders in one area of life or another. Whether you are a CEO of a company, a parent, a pastor, or a friend, you are a leader. You are graced to have influence with other people in the capacity of leadership. Therefore, in the Spirit of Christ, it is incumbent upon us to serve those whom we lead. Service is an action word that requires demonstration. As servants, our actions should provide examples and models of what leadership is. Christ’s leadership style was transformational, reshaping the hearts and minds of his followers to be better, instead of simply looking better.

Let us endeavor to embrace Christ’s holistic approach of leadership. Let’s be servants that transform the hearts and minds of those who follow us. Let’s make leadership great again.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Can you identify areas in your life where you have influence with others?

Are you an effective leader?

How well do you serve those who follow you?

Are there areas of insecurity that you struggle with as a leader? If there are, how do you address these areas?

What does transformational leadership look like in your professional or personal context?

PRAYER:

God, we come to you today to acknowledge your leadership. You are the ultimate authority in our lives. We humbly submit to your leadership, and the blueprint that you gave us through Jesus Christ your Son. May we embrace the reality that servanthood is the greatest asset to true leadership. Help us not to lean on our own strength and resources as a place of confidence, but rather in the humility of just being chosen by you to lead. Thank you for the grace to lead others by example, and to demonstrate your Kingdom to those around us. As you enlarge our spheres of influence, we commit to bringing you the glory that is due your name. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Luke 14:7-11, 22:24-30.