the shepherd and servant leader

“He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you – he really is an idiot.” Groucho said that, and I wonder if he was thinking about leaders. Have you ever thought that about a leader, “what an idiot?” Which brings me to some questions: What do we expect of our leaders? What makes a good leader? How does a good leader lead? The midterm elections are over, we’re ramping up for a presidential election, and we are leaders of our families and workplaces and local communities. What does God think about leadership? What does God want and expect of you (and me) as a leader?

David became king of all of Israel in 2 Samuel 5. The Lord said, “You are to be a shepherd of my people. And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” Notice that David is to be a shepherd leader. What do we know about shepherds? They work hard, they attend to each individual sheep as needed. They care for sick sheep and chase after the strays. They sleep out among the sheep and stay up all night with them to protect them. They lead them to good food and water and discipline them when necessary, for their own good. It’s a 24/7 job to shepherd. And this is how David is to be king. This is good leadership. Isn’t this how we should lead our families and workplaces as well? How are you shepherd-leading those under your care and protection? The Lord is the best shepherd leader, as Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….” Good leadership is shepherd leadership.

See also that David is king “for the sake of his people,” not his own sake. There is a great danger of pride in leadership, to lord it over those we lead, to expect to sit at the head of the table or have the richest foods while others go hungry. A leader can fall into the trap of being served instead of serving those he leads. James and John proudly argued over how great they were and who would sit next to Jesus in His kingdom, but the greatest leader, Jesus, said, “I didn’t come to be served but to serve, and give my life as a ransom for many.” That is the heart of servant leadership, for the sake of the people. He came to wash his disciples’ feet, not have them wash his feet. A servant leader looks like Jesus in Philippians 2, “though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Servant leadership costs you your life for the sake of those you lead. What are you prepared to do for the sake of the people you lead?

To be a good leader, a shepherd leader and servant leader, one must be a good follower first – a follower of Jesus, the perfect example of the best leader. Leadership rises and falls on humility, shepherding and serving. How is your leadership? How can you grow in shepherd and servant leadership?