This morning at Vineville UMC in our morning prayer service using Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, a proverb quoted by John Perkins was included in the liturgy. You’ll see it in the photo.
It’s a good challenge for anyone in a leadership role, and for a leader who claims to follow Christ, such leadership shows love and respect for the people one is leading.
This way of leading recognizes that patience and listening are important, and that offering one’s best work involves much preparation, consideration of existing conditions, and grace. It also involves an absence of ego, especially as to concern about who gets the credit or who leaves the legacy. In building on what already exists, in listening to and learning from others, a leader shows humility, respect for others and gratitude for the gifts and abilities of those who have given years of faithful service to a community.
I have seen leaders who lead with forbearance and humility and I’ve seen leaders who scorch the earth as they aggressively pursue their agendas. There are leaders who lead by demanding respect and leaders who gain the respect of others because they are not above doing whatever is needed, even the most menial task. Love, not accolades, motivates their service.
When I think about humble leadership, I think of how Paul exhorts the Philippians to model their lives after that of Jesus: who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
Particularly in the Church, we need leaders who lead with love and humility, who listen and learn. And all of us, leaders or not, are challenged to follow the example of Jesus, not claiming special privilege, but serving with love and grace.