Why should a leader be humble? It’s simple. Because Jesus was.
Webster defines humility as “freedom from pride” and defines pride as “confidence and satisfaction in oneself.”
Our culture tells us that we should look out for number one, and they aren’t referring to the One True God. Our culture tells us that we deserve whatever we want, so, “Go get it!”, even if you must push people out of the way to get there.
We have been deceived to believe that our value comes from things that we work for, like power, position, accumulation of wealth, the biggest Fall Festival to date, a full roster of volunteers, or twenty new baptisms. We believe that the more of these we earn, the prouder we will be.
Your Leadership Matters
Jesus tells us just the opposite. We see clearly in the Gospel of John when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet that humility in leadership matters.
“2The evening meal was being served…3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he…began to wash his disciples’ feet.
12When he had finished washing their feet… [He said], 14’Now that I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.15I have set you an example that you should follow.’”John 13:1-15 NIV
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We learn 4 things about Jesus from this passage.
- He was a powerful leader.
- Jesus knew His identity came from God.
- He served with humility.
- Jesus wants us to follow His example.
Jesus was a powerful leader, yet He humbly sacrificed Himself to everyone both in His ministry and on the cross. He lived (and died) for others, modeling perfect leadership in His perfect humility. And He called us to do the same.
For most of my life, I also lived for others. Now that may sound deeply spiritual, but in my case, it was all about me. My living for others was not out of humility—it was out of a fear of not being accepted or valued by them.
It wasn’t until I really understood that who I am is not defined by how other people define me, or whether they invite me in. Only Jesus can define me, and He has already invited me in. Understanding that has drastically changed my ability to lead others with humility.
But why do identity and humility impact leadership?
To answer that, let’s go all the way back to Genesis and the fall of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1:31 it says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” God created it, and He defined it, and “all that He had made” included people; it included you and me, and “it was very good.”
But when we get to Genesis chapter 3, the serpent takes the very words of God and twists them. He told Adam and Eve that if they DID something (ate the fruit) they could become MORE like God … in other words, they could be better. God defined Adam and Eve as very good, but the enemy caused them to question the very identity God had given them and led them (and us) to a life of striving to DO something to BE better.
Let’s look at 2 things regarding leadership in this passage.
- Satan misled Adam and Eve. His focus was not on the growth and discipleship of Adam and Eve. It was instead all about him and his pride.
- As soon as Adam and Eve began questioning the identity that God had given them, their leadership went awry. Adam began to blame Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Adam and Eve’s focus was no longer on the Lord—instead their focus became about them.
What could have been a beautiful discipleship opportunity under a perfect and humble leader became a life of striving. Living a life of striving breeds insecurity which turns our focus on doing instead of being.
We can never DO enough to BE enough.
And sadly, when we transfer that level of insecurity to a position of leadership, it can become self-focused and prideful. Instead of leading and discipling others to benefit the kingdom, our volunteers, our children, or whomever we lead, can be left with no encouragement or growth.
Jesus Gives A Better Way: Humility in Leadership
However, Jesus showed us a better way. Throughout the gospels, we see how Jesus took a disparate group of men, and by His humble leadership and discipleship He built a church that has spread throughout the world and still exists today. He calls us to do the same.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
But we can’t do it if we are worried about building ourselves up. Understanding who you are in Christ gives you freedom to lead with humility. With humility we spend more time looking out for the people we are leading than worrying about them looking out for us.
Humility is about putting others first and leading them into a growing and deepening relationship with Jesus. Humility is encouraging those you lead to develop and use the skills God has given them.
Each of us has the power through Jesus to lead with humility. What are some ways we can do that?
A Humble Leader:
- knows when to ask for help
- focuses on growing and developing those they are leading
- gives credit where credit is due
- gracefully receives constructive criticism
- champions those they lead
- takes time to care for their people
- shows grace when mistakes are made
- is actively pursuing their relationship with Jesus
- seeks wisdom from the Lord through prayer and Scripture
- knows that leadership puts people above process
Are you a humble leader who lives in the freedom of knowing that your identity comes from Jesus? Remember that He created you, and He says, “It is very good!”
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