In today's sermon, I contrasted the leadership styles of Rehoboam and Jesus.
In brief: Rehoboam used threats and intimidation to pursue his narrow personal political and economic interests while Jesus served those around him at the cost of his own life.
In my sermon I caricatured this as a simple choice between serving self and serving others. In reality, it is a bit more complicated.
While in office Jimmy Carter eliminated drivers for top staffers. This decision had something to do with his disdain for showing special favour to leaders. Yet the unintended consequence was that each day his top officials spent a couple of hours driving when they could have been preparing for meetings. Someone might have rightly questioned: "So if those people are driving, who is leading the nation?"
All to say that it isn't inherently wrong to let someone serve you, to free up your time to pursue something valuable.
When Jesus said that "whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Mark 10:42) he wasn't trying to flatten every instance of hierarchy. Instead, he was teaching his followers a peculiar ethic when it came to leadership: keeping other people's interests ahead of your own.
This too is complicated. Keeping other peoples' interests ahead of his own didn't mean that Jesus did whatever they asked for (a sign from heaven for instance). Jesus had a clear understanding of what it meant to live in a right relationship with God and with others. He would do only do what would promote their self-interest, as he understood it.
So what does this all mean about leadership, practically speaking?
I think it means that as leaders we should not be lording our position over others. I think it means that as leaders we need to respect and honour those who tend to our basic, everyday needs. I think it means that we need to choose vocations that promote the wellbeing of others and pursue them to the best of our ability. I think it means that no job should so beneath us that we wouldn't deign to do it, should our effort be required.
What kind of leadership do you think Jesus is encouraging?