A Leader Worth Following
Before launching into a philosophy of leadership we must stop and define leadership. At the core there are two primary aspects of leadership. First, a leader must be worth following. Second, a leader must have followers. These foundational parts of leadership are connected. If a leader is worth following, the leader will have followers. The converse is also true. If someone claims to be a leader, but no one is willingly following, that person is not a leader though he may have a title that indicates otherwise. A leader worth following is best characterized by examining the person and work of Jesus Christ. One salient passage that describes Jesus and His approach to leadership is Philippians 2:5-11.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus is the ultimate leader to imitate. His humility and love for those He served was evident in many ways including servant like behavior such as washing the disciples feet. Jesus led from a vastly different stance than most leadership methods taught today. This sharp contrast between the pride filled self-centered, self-serving leader and the humble, servant hearted, self sacrificing leadership of Jesus can be found throughout scripture. In Philippians 2:5-11 we see seven key attributes of Jesus that make Him worth following and imitating. All of them having their roots in humility:
- He emptied Himself
- He became a servant
- His humble birth in a stable
- His humble and simple life
- His humble obedience to the Father
- His self-sacrificing death on the cross
- His exaltation by God the Father
When a leader gives of them self to serve their followers it’s compelling. People desire to follow a leader whose words line up with their actions because both reveal the content of the leaders heart. Words and actions are a window into the true character of the leader. People want to know, “is the leader smoking what they’re selling?” Looking at the above passage and the example of Jesus we catch a glimpse of the very heart of Jesus. After reading this passage it’s easy to see that Jesus cares, He gives a rip. He desires what’s best for me even if that means the worst for Him. Selfless acts indicate a leader worth following.
Paul follows Jesus. In Philippians 3:1-11 we see that Paul, “puts no confidence in the flesh”, though if anyone could, he had the right. He was highly religious in every way. Yet, Paul counts it all as loss for the sake of knowing, serving and loving this Jesus who he was compelled to follow. Take a look at words that reveal Paul’s heart as a follower of Jesus.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, lookout for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Follow Me as I Follow Christ
Paul is yielding to the leadership of Jesus. Paul is transformed from a self-righteous over achiever in the religious establishment of his day, to an example worth following as he follows Christ Jesus his Lord. Paul goes so far as to say that he longs to suffer and die as he follows Jesus, because Jesus set the example by suffering and dying. Jesus is a leader worth following and Paul followed. Not only did Paul follow Jesus but he states in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”, thus continuing the process. Through this cursory look at a few passages, the Bible tells what a leader worth following is like and that He indeed has followers. A Biblical philosophy of leadership must have as its foundation humility, demonstrated best through the birth, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ.