Christianity 201

May 13, 2012

Leading With Power vs. Leading With Love

This is an excerpt from the currently releasing business leadership book, Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby (Zondervan). If you have people who work “under” you, this is a great read for heading into a new week on Monday morning.

Two millennia ago an itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus of Nazareth called his friends together for a dinner. This wasn’t like the normal meals that group enjoyed, however — Jesus knew it was his last meal. The next day he would be executed by the Roman government. So on that final night, Jesus had to decide how to summarize his view of how best to live so that his twelve followers could carry on his message.

Think of all the options before him. He could have:

  1. given them a written scroll that summarized all his teachings
  2. given them money to expand their ministry
  3. given them divine powers to make believers out of the skeptics, or
  4. introduced them to leaders who would have political influence

I know I would have done something like that — especially if option 3 was within my grasp! However, he surprised his friends with something so unexpected that it echoed through the ages, changing even the way organizations in twenty-first-century America are led.

As his friend John later remember, Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”(John 13: 4-5)

In the culture of ancient Palestine, such a gesture was considered the ultimate in self-effacement and humility — bordering on humiliation! Only salves washed other people’s feet. And given that most of the twelve disciples were gaining conviction about the divinity of their leader, Jesus’ actions struck them as all them more extraordinary.

Peter, the most outspoken of Jesus’ friends, was not pleased by what was happening.  He said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus must have seen the confusion in those familiar eyes, because he replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Peter wasn’t easily dissuaded — I’ve had more than a few people like him working for me!

But something bigger was happening than a mere argument about whether Jesus was acting like a slave — he was showing his friends a completely new way of leading. So he answered, “Unless I was you, you have no part with me.” (John 13: 6-8)

The fact that Jesus chose to embody his leadership on the night before his death by washing his “employees'” feet represents a compelling example for every leader who has followed him The occasion seared the importance of serving int o the minds of his disciples and challenged all who came after him to consider that leading with love might really be the best way to change the world.

If you lead anything or anyone, you are in a position of power, and if you lead with love, you will surprise others — just like Jesus surprised Peter. I am not suggesting that any of us is like Jesus, but I am suggesting that all of us have the opportunity to abuse our power or to use it well. To hoard it or give it away…

Joel Manby; Love Works, pp. 151-153

Footnote:  This book is a great gift for a business associate who may not share your faith perspective, but will resonate with its premise, having heard the “love chapter” from I Corinthians read at any Christian weddings they’ve attended.

2 Comments »

  1. […] While Love Works is light on scripture and not at all preachy, read an excerpt from a later chapter of the book at Christianity 201. […]

    Pingback by Book Review: Love Works « Thinking Out Loud — May 15, 2012 @ 6:48 am | Reply

  2. Sounds like a great book. I’ll have to read it. I never quite thought of the last lesson he taught his disciples was that we should be a servant. Very challenging and humbling ….
    Thanks for sharing about this book.

    Comment by Jim Williams — June 8, 2012 @ 8:52 pm | Reply


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