Leadership Lesson: Don’t Lord… Serve!

My intent and goal is to be led by Jesus as I lead others. I want my leadership style to be influenced by Jesus, who taught us to serve others and not lord leadership over them. It turns out people will achieve more when the leader asks, “How can I serve them?”

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

This week, I was elected chair of the board of an industry association which I am on. I knew it was coming if I didn’t screw it up. As Vice President, our association typically slides you into President when the incumbent’s term is up. I had been thinking about this the night before, because I would need to share some remarks after the vote.

After sharing those remarks, I realize how much my leadership style is influenced by the words of the Lord Jesus. That doesn’t mean I am perfect. I violate John 3:30 regularly, allowing myself to become greater and making Jesus less in certain circumstances.  Yet my intent and goal is to be led by Jesus as I lead others.

I shared with my board that leadership is a trust and the role of chair on a board is a trust. This is an important truth, as so many people, and particularly younger leaders, often misunderstand leadership as something to lord over others. Whenever I hear someone describe their role as being in charge of x, I bristle. The concept of being in charge lends itself way to easy to lording over.

Years ago I worked for a company in which the role of supervisor was referred to as ‘supporting manager’ – you would ask someone, “Who is your supporting manager?” and never, “Who’s the boss?” or “Who’s in charge?”  The language of that work place set the tone for the proper role of a leader, which is serving the people.

I shared with my board that just as their role is to serve the members of our association, my role is to likewise serve our members and also serve our board members and our employees. After I was done I looked down at my notes and thought of Jesus’ teaching…

What’s your leadership style? And when you are in a position of authority over others, how do you handle yourself? Jesus’ example to us is to serve and not be served, and to give his life for us. How much of your life, comfort, time, or help are you willing to give to the people you lead? That’s not how we typically think of leadership. We often start with, “What do we need from the people and how do we get them to deliver?”

It turns out that people will deliver more and better when we ask ourselves, “How can I serve them to play their role?”

Turn leadership on its head. Realize that it is a trust in which we serve others following the example of Jesus.


Marc Kinna


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One Response to Leadership Lesson: Don’t Lord… Serve!

  1. Jamie Carter says:

    I’m not afforded a position of authority over others. I just do what I can to make myself useful. See a need, fill a need – even if that means rolling up my sleeves and applying some elbow grease. I think much too much is made of leadership – we might call it servant-leadership, but at the end of the day, it’s all leadership and no amount of servant-like emphasis can change that. I think that the idea that Jesus wanted to show us was to treat God’s kingdom as upside down and inside out. We’re supposed to just be servants, cleaning toilets, cooking food, cleaning up after toddlers – by definition, the truest leaders in the church aren’t the ones that have positions of authority and preach and teach – it’s usually the women who aren’t allowed any authority because they’re girls.

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