Servant First or Leader First!!!!!

21 Mar Servant First or Leader First!!!!!

Servant leadership presents a challenge to many scholarly minds, especially from an organizational vantage point. How can one of least statue, assume the greatest role? There are times when an explanation cannot be easily rendered to a subject because of its weightier spiritual implication. Such is the phenomenon of servant leadership and the life of Jesus Christ. Throughout his life, Jesus displayed a leadership style that was not popular, appeared plain and was unpretentious.

Although its practice is eternal, the expression “servant leadership” “was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970” (Green Leaf Center for Servant Leadership).  Greenleaf emphatically,  pens “ the servant leader is servant first”, this promulgates the concept that he/she does not place the well-being of self or business before individuals, but endeavors to see the unique strengths, and abilities of people and mentors them to function at their maximum capabilities. On the other hand, the guide or leader must be cognizant of the weaknesses of the individual and teaches him or her how to effectively manage, those weaknesses, until they can be overcome, if at all they can be.

For one to change his/her self-image or world view, he/she must first change his/her mindset. Hence, Jesus’ efforts were never directed at one’s intellect, but at one’s heart; for our conversations merely unearth that which is buried within the recesses of our hearts(Proverbs  4:23, Matthew12:34, 23 Luke 6:45). 

The leader first and servant first are diabolically opposed in their pursuits. And the manifestation is marked by the care, concern and value placed on people as opposed to position. The Pharisees, who were the religious leaders and theologians of that era were overcome with indignation at Jesus’ leadership approach and sought occasions to kill him. One of the age old questions “Why are great minds met with opposition from mediocre spirits?” May never be fully understood, and of such, an appropriate response may never be bestowed.

One of the more well-known stories lain in scriptures is” The woman with an issue of blood” (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56). Cradled among Mosaic laws are the regulations governing the clean and the unclean. Those laws unambiguously state, a woman who is bleeding as a result of childbirth or her menstrual flow is considered unclean (Leviticus 12:1-5, Leviticus15:25-26).

A woman, who can, by the standards of modern medicine, be considered as having dysfunctional uterine bleeding for 12years ventured out of the confines placed upon her by societal customs to see Jesus because she had heard of his magnificent, miraculous and munificent acts towards mankind. The crowd thronged Jesus, and she was unable to get to him. So crawling on hands and knees, she reached forth and touched the hem of his garment. How could she? An unclean female; who knowingly violates Mosaic laws, causing another to become defiled, particularly a Jewish male; perpetrated an act worthy of punishment. Jesus stopped and the query of “who touched me” was levied. Humbly and terrified she confessed; Jesus commended her for her faith, pronounced her not only healed but whole and her flow of blood seized from the moment she touched his garment. He did not rebuke her, neither did he condemn her. He served her. Jesus was en-route to a ruler of a synagogue’s house because his daughter was sick unto death. Yet he made time to stop and attend to a female who society had ostracized. He placed no greater solemnity on the leaders need than this lowly woman’s plight. Eventually, he continued his journey to care for the wellbeing of the ruler’s daughter. Jesus had time to serve the needs of two individuals distinctly different in gender, social standing, educational and professional aspiration, but of equal import and value to him. This is a startling contrast to most modern leadership practices.

At a gathering of Jesus and his disciples to share the Passover meal; when supper concluded; humbly the master stooped to wash the feet of his followers. One of a very obstinate spirit and flawed understanding refused his master’s request.  His general outlook steered him to believe that Jesus, being a leader should never be engaged in what he considered a degrading task. Lovingly, Jesus corrects his impoverished understanding of leadership and comradery. Additionally, Jesus informed him “………. If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13: 8 KJV). They were further instructed to emulate this practice of washing of feet. It was not the washing of feet that was meaningful. It was its symbolism and message. By so doing Jesus illustrated to them and taught, the greatest deeds of leadership are borne out of the heart of servitude (John 13:1-17).

Jesus’ attributes of an unsullied character, charity, charisma, compassion, concern, courage and conviction were magnetic; and thus, the masses were drawn to him. He did not use his popularity or repute to laud over others or for personal gains. Rather, each opportunity that allowed him to serve humanity He did. Below is an old proverbial saying, that is relevant and its truism eternal

Men are four “He who knows not and knows not that he knows not, he is a fool-shun him. He who knows not and knows that he knows not, he is a student, teach him. He who knows, and knows not that he knows, he is asleep wake him! He who knows and knows that he knows, he is wise follow him”. Jesus’ life and leadership qualities epitomize wisdom. Therefore, it behooves us to follow Him.

Jen Harvey

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