Humble Leadership

by Joseph Franks

Earlier this year, the Rutgers University basketball coach was found on video cursing, shoving, pulling, kicking, demeaning, and throwing basketballs at his players.  Ultimately, his style of leadership was deemed inappropriate by America at large and school administrators, and he was removed from his post.  Some were outraged by his actions.  Others of us, who played quite a bit of ball in life, realized that he went over the top, but this was nothing new.  Back in the day, we were groomed by such old school coaches.  We were called every name in the book, shoved up against lockers, made to run “suicides” until we vomited, and had balls thrown or kicked at us; and all of this was done by men who loved us.  Woody Hayes, John Maddens and Bobby Knights were everywhere.

However, coaching has another face; one that I believe is far superior.  It has been presented by men such as John Wooden, Tom Landry and Tony Dungy.  These were men who demanded excellence; they were driven, intense, and yet gentlemanly and meek.  They were men who led, but did so humbly.  They were men who led, but looked like Christ.

Peter commends this sort of leadership in the fifth chapter of his first letter:

1 Peter 5:1-7     So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you ….

1.  Peter shows humility in his address.  He exhorts as a team member and fellow leader.  He comes alongside instead of speaking from his lofty perch.

2.  Peter reminds his readers of the Ultimate Leader — Jesus Christ — who suffered and died for the improvement of his constituents.  He is the model teacher to be followed.

3.  Peter urges his fellow leaders to watch their motivation.  Leadership is about pleasing the Chief Shepherd and improving those being led.  The good leader is not so concerned with safeguarding his legacy, making money, or other forms of “shameful gain.”  He is not so self-motivated as some leadership consultants may think.

4.  Peter exhorts leaders to walk their talk.  They are to model that which they preach.  Bottom line, they are to be leaders with integrity.

5.  Domineering is not to characterize the Christ-honoring leader.  He is eager and goal-driven.  He has an objective in mind towards which he and his team are moving, but he does not treat them as slaves.  Those being led find themselves convinced more than compelled.  They find their will being encouraged to conform more than forced to bow the knee.

6.  Peter reminds his readers of their accountability.  The Chief Shepherd is watching and reviewing.  Promotion or demotion is based upon his assessment.  It is for this reason that all leaders should , “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility … for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Most leadership problems are solved when one understands himself to first be a servant of God, and then a servant of his neighbor.  Spouses, children, students, employees, constituents, church members, subordinates, and players are not your slaves to fulfill the leader’s goals.  No, the leader is God’s minister and those being led are his mission field.  With this in mind, worship, witness, and love become more important than winning the next trophy to collect dust in the gymnasium hallway.

So, here are two questions for you to consider:

If we interviewed your spouse, children, students, employees, constituents, church members, subordinates or players, would you be considered a Christlike, humble leader?  

If we interviews Christ, what would he say?

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