If I Would Lead, I Must Serve
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

Years ago, the company I worked for hired a new office manager. Our CEO was aging; he hoped this new man would eventually take his place. Our CEO planned a beautiful day’s retreat for the whole staff in the mountains, so we could get acquainted with our new boss.

The new office manager made an affable, casual speech about how glad he was to be with us, how he looked forward to helping us become our very best in our tasks, how he felt his leadership qualities fitted exactly into what our company needed.

But at lunch, when we lined up at the various food bars, he ignored those waiting in line, and moved to the front of each line to get his food. (We employees would have been glad to invite him to come to the front of the lines, if he’d given us a chance. We’d have liked to make a good impression on our new boss!)

In the afternoon, we did a hand-craft project. We could all work at our own pace, with all the tools we needed, except for one last bit, which required taking the project to a colleague with a little machine that would fasten it all together. As we completed our project, we stood patiently in the long line for that last finishing touch. Again, when the new office manager finished his, he stepped to the front of the line to have his handled first.

I wasn’t surprised when a few weeks later, our new manager was gone.

The Scriptures tell an interesting story about Jesus’ twelve disciples as they were walking down a road together toward Capernaum. Mark 9:33,34 says, “Then Jesus came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’ But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.”

I don’t blame the disciples for staying quiet! I wouldn’t want to have to tell Jesus I’d been bragging on how great I was! The story continues in verse 35:

And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone desires to be first,
he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

If I hope to be a good and successful leader, then I must do it by looking for ways to serve those I lead, rather than expecting them to serve me. The dear Lord Jesus, God Himself, set the example. Jesus is the very Son of God and Creator of the universe. But on the evening before He would die for us, He took off His robe, took a basin and a towel, and washed the dirty feet of each one of His disciples. Don’t let the familiarity of the story lessen the profound truth: if we would be great, if we would be a leader, then we must humble ourselves to serve the people we lead. Philippians 2:5-8 says,

“Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.
Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God.
He made himself nothing;
He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.
And in human form He obediently humbled himself
even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.”

May God give me a heart to serve with “the same attitude that Christ Jesus had”!