In a list of the top qualities that make a great leader, Forbes.com listed ideas such as a confidence, positive attitude, and ability to inspire. They also listed some qualities that we would recognize as important from a Biblical standpoint, such as honesty. But they failed to include what the Bible presents as one of the most important qualities of a successful leader. Mark 10:42-43a says, “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you . . .” When speaking with the disciples, Jesus said that they should not lead as others in the world did. God would end up using these men to be some of the primary leaders of the early church. They would have authority over others. But Christ specifically told them that they should not exercise their authority and leadership in the same way that many in the world did. The leadership that a Christian demonstrates should be different, and it requires an essential quality that Christ named. Mark 10:43-44 says, “But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” Christ said that the essential character of an effective leader is service. He said that in order to be great, one must serve others. That’s not what we typically find in a book on leadership. That’s not what Forbes or other leading business publications would teach. But that is what Christ taught.
But not only did Christ teach that service is the essential quality of leadership, He also demonstrated this truth Himself. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Christ came in order to serve others, and His greatest service was in the form of giving His own life to pay for the sins of others. Christ came to serve us by paying the debt for our sin that we could not pay. Philippians 2 gives a great example of Christ’s humility as it shows us of His service for us. Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The word “form” in verse 6 is a word that speaks of the exact character and nature. For Christ to be in the “form” of God means that He has the exact character and nature of God. That is who He is; He is God. But Christ, God, took on the form of a servant. He also became a servant in His very nature and character. Christ becoming a servant for us is the greatest example of humility that the world has ever seen. But Christ humbled Himself in this way in order to serve us by dying on the cross to pay for our sins. Christ possessed and demonstrated the essential character of a true leader: service.
In following Christ’s example, we must also recognize that the essential quality of leadership is not the ability to inspire people nor the ability to get things done. The essential quality of leadership is service. Other qualities are important; this is not the only quality that is necessary. But Christ said that it is the most important. We often have the opportunity to be in some form of leadership. If we are going to be effective leaders, particularly in the spiritual realm, but also in other areas of our lives, then we must learn to serve others. That is what Christ demonstrated to us, and that is what we must follow.