The inspiration for this post comes from one of the oldest books in history. It is one of the most often told stories of all time. It is an example to all who lead, given to us by the world’s most influential person to ever walk this earth.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting in the first row behind the sound board, I like to watch the creative team do their thing. I’m not wearing my usual attire. Today I’m in jeans and a t-shirt. My tennis shoes are really out of the ordinary for a Sunday morning at church.
My preacher reaches for one of the towels on a rack behind him and begins to go into a story of Jesus, at a dinner party. I lean forward in my seat. I’m curious to learn how Jesus sees team leadership. Jesus is standing there away from is followers. I imagine him leaning against the door jam, watching the mayhem ensue. His disciples, the men who will carry on his legacy after his death, are arguing with one another over who will be the greatest in the kingdom.
But something is amiss here. Their feet don’t look right. The servant who is usually available to wash the feet of the guests as they enter the party is noticeably absent. Everyone’s feet are dirty and dusty, filled with the filth of the ancient middle-east.
Here they are arguing with each other asking and debating, who amongst them is most important? It is at this moment that the world’s most influential person to ever live, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, enters the room. He grabs a towel only ever touched by a servant foot washer. Jesus of Nazareth kneels before his followers, humbling himself to the stature of a servant, and cleans each and every foot in the room.
Jesus then explains to the room of shocked followers why he has done this. (When he had finished washing their feet, he put on is clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord, and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”) John 13: 12-17
So there I am sitting at the church in my t-shirt and tennis shoes feeling blown away. I’m wearing this outfit because the church as a whole is about to go out and serve others in our community. It is only after hearing this story, told in this way, that I truly understand the significance of serving those around us. I’m beside myself with excitement for I have just figured out a few new secrets to becoming a great leader. Taught by example from one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen.
Serve Others – Jesus commands “…you also should wash one another’s feet.” And tells us right out “you will be blessed if you do them.” Serving others is not beneath us. In fact, it is a truly higher calling. My friend Daniel C. White has a great post on Servants Serving Servants.
Teach your followers – Jesus sees this as a teaching moment to instill one of his greatest lessons. Just as he humbled himself to teach his people, so should we as leaders. He shows them first hand that they should wash one anothers feet. He wants them to learn to care for one another and to teach them this, he humbles himself and shows them how.
Lift them up – Jesus tells us “…no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Our followers cannot be better than us. If on a scale of 1 – 10 we are, as leaders, a 5, our followers can never be more than a 4. Don’t you want 8s and 9s working for you? Then you must become a 10 yourself!
Love your followers – Jesus humbles himself to the status of a servant in order to get the message across. His followers are more important to him than his own ego or self image. Are you willing to sweep the shop, or clean the bathrooms at your organization? Are you willing to serve your employees and show them how to do something to the best of their ability or is that below you?
Whether you call him a King or not, you can agree he is the world’s most influential leader to ever live. His teachings are full of examples of level 10 leadership. This is one of the most powerful lessons a leader can learn from the world’s most renowned leader himself.
Are you serving your followers?