We live in an age where leadership is seen as an important quality that often defines success. Not only large organizations send their employees for leadership training courses, even school students are encouraged to develop their leadership skills. There are some people who say that they prefer to be followers rather than leaders. But this cannot be true as every person takes on some form of leadership during the course of one’s life. Whether it be among friends, family, colleagues…at some point we exercise this quality either in a micro or macro level.
Leadership is often associated with power and authority. However, this was not the case with Jesus. In the early stages of his ministry, the disciples of Jesus thought that he was going to assert his power by overthrowing the Roman Empire. But as time went along, the disciples began to understand that the kind of leadership that Jesus came to show was very different from that of the way the world thinks. Jesus clearly tells his disciples that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Mk 10: 45). The model that Jesus offered to his disciples was rather radical. For many it was an unacceptable idea. They were used to servants washing the feet of the master but Jesus, the Master now washes the feet of the disciples. The kind of leadership shown by Jesus is not easily acceptable to many.
The leadership model of Jesus may be considered a sign of weakness to many leadership gurus in this present age. Even during his time, many considered the death of Jesus on the cross as a failure to make real the vision of the kingdom that he had. However, today Jesus has over 2 billion followers. Not bad for someone the people of his time considered a failure!
The model of leadership that Jesus offers is founded on love and not on authority and power. In Luke 9:45f we see the disciples arguing among themselves as to who is the greatest. Jesus was quick to recognize that they were talking about greatness in the context of power and authority. He was quick to remind them that the leadership in the kingdom is not about power and authority but it is about love – a love that is ready to serve one another for the greater good of humanity. Jesus knew that if leadership in the Kingdom is not about love and service, it will crumble. For us Christian, the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus is model of leadership that we are called to emulate. It is not easy but it is not impossible. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” (John Maxwell). Jesus has shown us the way….it is time to follow the way!