John 13:1-3 is the Foundation for servant leadership. What He knew is the key to this Foundation. He knew He was God. He could have been waited on hand and foot. He was always in control! He was the only one who had the right to be a dictator. Yet he was willing to give up his control. He laid his control aside and picked up a towel and washed feet. That is servant leadership.
John 13:4-11 The Demonstration
Foot washing was as common as taking someone’s coat at the door of a house in homes that have butlers or maids. The servant of the home washed the dirty feet of guests (servants were not admired in those days). Jesus’ disciples did not understand servant-hood at all. These men just argued amongst themselves on who they thought the greatest was among them. This is not something that could continue if the Kingdom of God was going to be established through these men. Apparently there was no servant present to wash feet and so the feet were unwashed. Jesus seized the moment and made a lasting impression for all time of one of the most powerful pictures of servant leadership. He got down on his knees and washed the disciples feet. If you have ever had your feet washed by someone great it is an extremely humbling experience. What makes this demonstration so ridiculous is the fact that Jesus knew God was giving all things into His hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God (13:3). He only has a few hours left and he washes feet.
John 13:12-17 The Explanation
Jesus asks if they understand why He did this. Was he trying to get them to make foot washing a standard of ministry often? Was he trying to make foot washing a great idea sometimes but live a life of servant hood often? Was he only saying that servant hood attitude is paramount to being a part of God’s Kingdom? Some people connect foot washing with communion. However, foot washing never comes back up. I tend to think Jesus is giving us an example to serve all people, even those we think are below us. Do you want to make an impact with those around you? Be like Jesus and serve them.
Bringing it to the Marketplace
There are some great applications for life in this story. How would a boss or an employee of a company practice servant leadership? Here are some Characteristics of Servant Leadership that can be applied today at your place of work.
Listening. Servant-leaders seek to identify and clarify the will of the group and/or the individual. Not only must you hear what is being said, you have to notice what’s not being said. Prideful leaders don’t want to listen at all.
Awareness. You must be aware of the people, situations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses of those around you. You must be aware of all of those things about yourself. Being aware of people is a difficult task for leaders who are driven by thinking and strategy. A servant leader is able to take a step back and be aware of those around them.
Persuasion. This offers the clearest distinction between an authoritarian, fear-based leader and that of servant-leader. Persuasion is typically seen as a bad word, but not from the mouth of a humble person. Servant-leaders seek to convince others and build the team. Consider persuasion as the ability to open another person’s eyes to possibilities they had not considered. Be careful of running over people in your attempts to persuade.
Stewardship. Stewardship is the art of taking care of stuff. This could be stewarding the team as well caring for the equipment and related finances. For finances and equipment care don’t forget what your Dad used to say, “Take care of your stuff son!” Taking care of yours and others stuff is a humbling job. But never forget it is all God’s anyways.
Commitment to the Growth of People. Growth is not just technical in nature. Consider their personal growth and spiritual growth as well. A servant leader will consider the life work balance of all on their team. You need to decide how you can do that best for each person on your team. Servant leaders greatly hunger to see people around them growing.
Building Community. It takes a servant leader to model and persuade a team of people to be together. A community of people working together to accomplish a goal is inspiring and motivating to everyone.