Take a moment to think about the world’s most powerful leaders. What words come to mind?
Ambition? Passion? Determination? Ruthlessness?
What about humility?
We don’t often equate successful leadership with humility—at least, not by the world’s standards. The world tells us that in order to lead, you need to put yourself first, show that you’re better than the rest, and strive for the top—even if that means alienating a few people along the way.
But the leadership modeled by Jesus Christ shows us a much different approach. The apostle Paul describes it this way in his letter to the Philippians:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped, but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Christ chose to live and lead through a posture of humility. Let’s unpack these verses.
- Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (v. 6). Another translation reads that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (NIV, 2011). It’s important to note that Jesus did not set aside his divinity when he lived on earth. He was fully God and fully human. However, Jesus chose to pursue obedience to God, rather than equality with God. Jesus did not flaunt or abuse his power.
- Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (v. 7). Jesus did not set himself up as a king when he lived on this earth. Quite the opposite—he came to serve. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Think of the many days that Jesus served people from early in the morning to late at night—healing, teaching, feeding, driving out demons. Crowds gathered around him. People clamored for his attention. It must have been exhausting! But he did not put his needs first; he served day after day after day.
- Jesus became “in human likeness” (v. 7). Becoming human was the only way that Jesus could carry out God’s plan of salvation. But what an act of humility for the Son of God to put on flesh—to experience pain, hunger, temptation, and limitation.
- Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (v. 8). Jesus’ ultimate act of humility was shown on the cross. In humility our Saviour and our leader put God’s will above his own.*
Far too often our human nature gets in the way of pursuing a Christ-like attitude of humility and obedience. This is especially true of leaders! We can get addicted to feelings of self-importance and the rush of receiving praise for our accomplishments. But these desires lead us away from God and away from the true leadership model of Jesus Christ.
True leadership humbly submits to the True Leader.
True leadership embraces its humanity and limitations.
True leadership takes on a posture of servanthood.
True leadership stays faithful to its mission, no matter the cost.
Have you thought about your leadership motivations lately? What’s standing in your way of pursuing Christ-like humility and obedience?