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Jesus Redefines Leadership

Jesus said: “The greatest one among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11) This sounds a lot like servanthood. R. K. Greenleaf, in his book Servant Leadership, attached servanthood to leadership as an ethical issue by encouraging leaders to empathize with their followers and by working to take care of them and nurture them. He goes as far as to assert that an individual emerges as a leader by first becoming a servant. In his book entitled Leadership, J. M. Burns supports this concept with his notable discussion on transformational leadership. His contention is that transformational leadership is distinguished from other leadership theories by its strong emphasis on meeting the needs of the follower. This sounds a lot like the greatest leader who ever lived. Jesus redefined leadership in His day. It was radical for Jesus to define great leadership in terms of servanthood because in His day Jewish free persons, like their Gentile counterparts, considered slaves socially inferior. Shelly, in his book Empowering Your Church Through Creativity and Change, brings this idea of servant leadership home when he states: “I’m becoming more and more convinced that God’s leader will never be allowed to get too comfortable … God’s call to leadership is not a call to privilege and displays of power but a call to servanthood and humility.”