Most of us think of leadership as being in front. The idea is that to lead one must be in the first position, so others can see you as forward progress is made. But as we will see in the example of Christ, leadership is oftentimes about humble actions toward those with whom you intend to lead.
John 13: 5 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.6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
This was just moments before Jesus would begin His journey to the cross. It would be His final message to His disciples before enduring the crucifixion.
I find it interesting that Jesus chose to wash their feet in this historical moment. If I were to write a movie script about Jesus life this would not have even crossed my mind. But Jesus wanted to make a leadership example here which would seal His teaching to them about what it means to truly lead as His representatives.
John 13:15-17 (MSG)
12-17 Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.
In our teaching on leadership I have become captivated by the above example of leadership by Jesus. Notice that He first did leadership before them, then commended them His example.
True leaders are not those who just order others around. They are people who’ve been where they are wanting others to go. And they are willing to serve to inspire others to follow their example.
I want to issue you a challenge. Find a way to serve. To go above and beyond what you are paid to do as a job. Not because you want to be noticed or kiss the bosses’ feet, but because you know that this is what great men do.
Several years ago, we began a ministry to the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. We served silently for months, and the result was that many of the future officers for the Navy and Marine Corp wanted to be part. At one point, I was asked by a Navy Admiral what it was that I wanted for the work I was doing for the midshipmen. It was an odd moment for me because the only answer I could give was, “We just want to help. “
I could see in his eyes some surprise. This could only mean that others in his world often had an ulterior motive for what they did to “benefit” the students.
True leadership does, and then ask others to follow.