The discussion opened this evening with the assertion that we all are leaders in some capacity in our careers and in our families. A leader can be defined as a person who has influence over the lives of others. We briefly shared how we see ourselves in that role. As physicians we are constantly asked to guide patients in some aspect of their healthcare and to oversee those who we supervise.
We spent the evening looking at what Jesus said about leadership by using the passage Mark 10:32-45. This reading starts with Jesus again telling the disciples that he would be persecuted in Jerusalem, put to death and rise again. We discussed how the apostles might have been expected to respond to this news and how they actually did. It was pointed out that instead of protesting or asking how this could be, James and John next ask for positions of power in Jesus’s coming kingdom. We discussed how this request is typical of modern day members of society who frequently are looking to become the hierarchy and gain control. The other apostles are incensed by their boldness and argue. We tried to relate this scenario to instances we have seen or been involved with in our lives. It was then pointed out that Jesus tells James and John they don’t even know what they are asking. Then he makes it clear to all that do be a Christ-like leader one must learn to be a servant, and even slave, to all the rest.
The rest of our discussion centered on five aspects of being a servant leader:
- Servant leaders do not expect anything back for themselves when they lead. We mentioned that the goal of completing the mission is always the top priority and not for the leader to gain notoriety, financial reward or glory for themselves.
- Servant Leaders are not preoccupied with recognition but are always focused on the mission. Jesus modeled this when he would perform a miracle and then tell the recipient not to tell anyone. He did not want the recognition to overshadow his mission. We spoke about instances when seeking credit for something can take away from the completion of the mission.
- A Servant Leader is not enslaved to the desire for affirmation. Wanting to gain the approval of the crowd can sometimes make a leader do the popular thing instead of the right thing. A biblical example of this that was mentioned was Moses not taking the Promised Land when the Israelites first approached because the people were afraid and were against it. We all want affirmation – just look at how Facebook is governed by how many ‘likes’ we get for a post. It was pointed out that desiring to be affirmed in your performance if not a bad thing and is actually a very important tool a good leader uses to reward their workers. But becoming preoccupied with gaining this type of affirmation can at times take our eye off the prize of accomplishing the goal. We asked ourselves when have we not done the right thing because it appeared too hard or unpopular.
- A Servant Leader prioritizes relationships over what those being lead can do for them. We discussed the type of people Jesus chose as his apostles – very simple men. We asked is this the type of people who are chosen usually in our culture and why not. It was mentioned in our society that when two people meet the topic of occupation usually comes up early in the discussion. This can be a subconscious tool we use to place people in a pecking order and determine in what way this new acquaintance may be of use. We discussed how the quality of the relationships we have with those we are leading impacts our success in leading.
- Servant Leaders are not paralyzed by fear. We went over Jesus’ reply to James and John and why he asked them if they could they drink from the cup he was going to drink from. It was to make them aware of the dangers and death that awaited them for following him. We then discussed how this could generate fear but this needs to be overcome to be successful. It was mentioned that the only great way to overcome fear is with prayer and faith in the Lord. It was mentioned a simple ‘Help me Lord’ is a great prayer that can come to you regularly. It was also discussed that praying “Use me Lord” may be even a better way to bring us back to the concept that we are called to our mission in life that Christ has assigned us. Asking him to use us in that mission is in keeping with Christ’s prayer to the Father when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane.