Courage to follow before leading

As a response to my previous post on “Leadership as a disservice”, I thought I would try to make my thoughts a bit more clear today. Everyone wants to be a leader, or at least think they are capable of it, right? Some even are blessed with the role of being a leader (over ministries, organizations, etc.) but haven’t taken the time to even think of what it requires before jumping into it. While at a few conferences this month and studying other ministries, it just seems to me that there are so many leaders out there that think they’re above and beyond being considered “one of us”.

A group of us were studying John 21:15-17 online the other night, while trying to understand how we can serve others better ourselves. If you read it closely, you’ll see that Simon thought Jesus knew that he loved him. He had been doing all of the leading he thought was required of him. While he thought he was leading people, Jesus made it clear that a love for Him consists of feeding his sheep. Feeding sheep seems like it suggests much more than just guiding them.

Seems like so many leaders jump ahead of the flock that they’re leading. They see Jesus giving them responsibility as a shepherd, and forgetting that they’re really just another sheep in the flock that might be able to help the others. Jesus is the only shepherd worth following. You might call this ridiculous, or suggest that I don’t respect authority. When I look for a leader, I look for someone that’s willing to stoop down a little bit. Maybe even give up some of their “prominent opportunities” and take on a role of service like their flock every now and then. Should a true leader continue to practice acts of service even while leading? Is it a disservice to lead without showing you are just as willing to follow? Do we spend too much time finding someone to pattern our life after, when Jesus is sufficient?

  1. Claudia Porpiglia

    Your observations are so true and so necessary. God has been working on the servant aspect of leadership for some time now. When a leader comes to others with an attitude of servanthood, others will more readily support that leader and things will be accomplished for God’s glory!

  2. Leadership is all about service. A Leader’s life is serving and a leader should always be serving those he leads… and serving alongside them.

    I think allowing yourself to be led from “below” is so important

  3. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave” Phil. 2:3-7

    Our Lord, made Himself a slave and yet was the greatest leader of ALL. He IS the example.

  4. I think that it’s a challenge and a balance. Of course, leaders need to serve, but with leadership comes a responsibility to step out of the work to lead. It’s a discipline.

  5. janelle

    I think of all the ministries and their ” leadership diagrams”….and sit a minute….I like the ones with a
    straight line and only Jesus at the top. “to the least of these”……..What leader has humility as their greatest character strength ? Leadership is a very dangerous place to be in ministry, yet very rewarding, yet called by GOD…..through a Pastor…I was tauhght not to put my faith, my trust, my walk after anyone other than JESUS…
    “don’t serve to appease a leader, go to church so the Pastor sees you, or Weds. nite….do we go for Christ alone, do we serve for Christ alone? “

  6. Great post Gabe. I particularly like the part about who we pattern our life after because as you said, Jesus is sufficient.

    I see so much about leadership these days and people imploring others to be leaders that I think we often miss the importance of being servants. Luke 22:27 says it best:

    “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

    There is nothing wrong with leadership and striving to be a leader per se. I am part of a group at church where the elders are discipling other members of the church to become part of the leadership of the church and not just the leader of a particular ministry. I always have to make sure I remain aware of my calling to be a servant as well and not let the sin of pride prevent me from serving when called or asked to because I feel as a leader that I shouldn’t have to do those things.

  7. Listening is huge in leadership. Listening to others, listening to the promptings of the Spirit, listening to what the Bible teaches. In John 21:15, it’s almost as if Jesus keeps asking Simon Peter if he loves him because Peter isn’t really listening to what Jesus is trying to say. As leaders, sometimes we charge forward without listening to those around us–including Jesus. Not listening can sometimes be an issue of overconfidence.

    At Catalyst this year, Malcolm Gladwell spoke about how overconfidence can bring down leaders and those that follow them. Very true.

  8. “Should a true leader continue to practice acts of service even while leading?” – ABSOLUTELY!

    “Is it a disservice to lead without showing you are just as willing to follow?” – If you can’t show people how to follow, then you’re not leading!

    “Do we spend too much time finding someone to pattern our life after, when Jesus is sufficient?” – Absolutely!!!

  9. Mark Robinson

    A true leader is one who is constantly serving those under him by building relationship, encouraging and providing coaching (care) to those under their leadership. In my mind someone who leads without serving is not really leading. At the end of the day we have to remember that we are all sinners dependent on God’s grace while also being a reflection of his grace to others.

  10. Leaders are servants. For sure.

    I think of Rick Warren who for the first 15 years of Saddleback was there early every Sunday to help set up the chairs and sound equipment, etc. for Sunday service. This is when the church had thousands and thousands of people attending.

    I know what it is like to be the person who is giving the “sermon” that morning and being at church early to set up. It can create challenges of trying to be focused when the moment comes to speak. But a leader must care deeply about serving those he seeks to lead.

  11. Pingback: Thoughts on Leadership: Why Leadership is Not the Same as Kingdom Influence | Kingdom Strategist

  12. Leadership is a skill set just like accounting is a skill set. To make anything more of it or to derive a sense of pride from it is sinful. Do what you’re called to do: serve. Do it with love and joy; do it to the best of your ability using the gifts God has given you. Do it for the benefit of the Kingdom. Everything else will fall into place.

    Keep up the good work.

  13. Andy Hooover

    One thought that came to mind as I was reading the post and comments, was this: I think that this is what Paul intended when he said that the wisdom of God is counted as foolishness to the world. This post is counter-intuitive if I am looking at this from within the world! A leader in the world (President, congressman, dictator, king, etc.) is one who takes charge with a firm hand, and makes (forgive the description) decisive decisions. A leading according to Christ’s example is one who tries to stay out of the spotlight, but because of his desire to serve the sheep (washing the disciple’s feet, turning water to wine, eating and being with “sinners”) takes leadership as a vehicle for glorifying God by discipling other sheep to love God as God has graciously shown the leader to do.

    Love is the key to leadership. If you love God, you wish to see him glorified, and to see God glorified you wish to use your talents (God-given) to bring Him more glory. Thus, if you have leadership talents, you should use them for God’s glory, thus in service.

    Good thoughts.

  14. Very thought provoking post, Gabe. I think ultimately the most effective leadership is servanthood. A leader can spend all their time planning, casting vision, and telling those around them what to do, but it seems to me it would be much more effective to actually love the people around you, help them develop their character and their relationship with God, and then see what God does through those fully-devoted, spirit led people. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

  15. I think service is very important in a leader because we have to take care of the needs of the people we lead. A leader isn’t someone who just bosses people around and tells them what not to do, but a leader is someone who is part of the team and is going to lead the other people with them towards a certain goal. For ministry, that goal would be spiritual growth, but I’ve found ministry to require a lot of service towards others.

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