Just a few weeks ago I completed my studies with Eastern University. The very last paper I wrote reflected on interviews with Ugandan Pastors and country specific research analyzing cultural perspectives of what causes gender based violence in Uganda. By the conclusion of the paper I watched my studies come full circle as I found myself quoting a reading from one of our very first classes on power dynamics of relationship. As a leader, it is a valuable gem to realize early on how dynamics of power influence relationship, and how to use power to construct rather than break down. The message Eastern branded into our brains over two years was the message of the servant leader.
The term ‘servant leader’ has become the academic framing for what it means to model the leadership of Jesus Christ. It is difficult to hold the corner market on full understanding of what Jesus’ leadership style really was, but as 21st century Christians the most highly esteemed qualities of Jesus’ leadership was his posture of servant. The leader who washes the feet of his followers, focuses on the most marginalized people in society, offers wisdom to the most wealthy, and goes so far as to sacrifice his life for all, is honestly a difficult model to live up to. One of my favorite places where Christ describes his leadership is in Matthew 20:25-26,
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (NASB).
As a leader, Christ possessed a true humility rooted in the confidence of God’s sovereignty. Humility is often understood as insecurity and weakness. Christ was neither insecure nor weak. He knew where he came from, and he was fully aware of the power God gave him. He did not question whether God had a purpose for him, and he did not come to earth displaying his power through might. Christ did not come to earth to prove to everyone he was powerful, because he was confident in what the truth was. There was no need to compensate for an inferiority complex. Rather, Jesus came to earth to restore humanity’s relationship to God. A leader with such a role to fulfill would not be successful asserting authority in an oppressive, dominating way. That would have contradicted his message of freedom and peace.
Christ taught us how to power with those we lead. To “power with” means to foster the capabilities and value of other human beings. Jesus’ example teaches us to care for the least of these, and as we do we actually show love to God himself (Matthew 25:37-40).
In my personal experience, I have greatly benefited from those who have fostered my capabilities through educational, spiritual, professional and personal means. My education has been made financially possible through the generosity of those who have invested in me through scholarship funds. I am thankful for those who have powered with me, so that I may pour into the community I serve with greater capacity. This summer, I and a couple others are hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in an attempt to raise scholarship money for African leaders pursuing graduate degrees in development studies and organizational leadership. If you would like to join Eastern University in powering with African leaders as they pursue Masters in Organizational Leadership and Development Studies please click here for more information.