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Summary: Serving is a high calling.

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One of the books I read recently was Jim Collins’ bestselling management book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap, and Others Don’t.” The phenomenal bestseller came out seven years ago and yet it still sells over 300,000 copies a year. It showcased 11 companies that transformed from average to amazing, or simply put, from good to great. Collins and his research team sought to pinpoint the principles that led them to greatness. These principles are not just applicable to companies but also to our personal lives, to our families and even to our church.

I find it very interesting that Collins pointed out that the first factor to become good to great is a Level 5 Leadership. Now, what is a Level 5 Leader? How do we become one? Bear with me please as I explain the details. According to “Good to Great,” Level 1 Leader is defined as a “Highly Capable Individual,” a person who “Makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits.” A Level 2 Leader is a “Contributing Team Member,” who “Contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting.” A Level 3 Leader is a “Competent Manager,” who “Organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.” A Level 4 Leader is an “Effective Leader,” who “Catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.” Now, most of the leadership talks I heard focused on this level of leadership, that to be a great leader, he must be a visionary. A great leader is a tough leader, one with a strong personality or charisma. That’s our usual concept of leadership. Power leadership. That’s why even in our families, we say that the father must be a tough, strong leader of the family. For us, to apologize to our spouse or to our children for our shortcomings for example is a sign of weakness. We would not admit our weaknesses. Yes, as the leader of the family, the father has the last say, the final decision. But, we feel listening to the opinion of our spouses is not an option. For our kids to voice out their opinion against our decision is simply not acceptable. That’s our image of a strong leader. Actually, it’s more overbearing than strong. I admit that’s also my personal image of a father. Well, bless her heart, my wife is submissive. But I know that Ellen time and again has struggled with my idea of leadership at home. And, if we are honest, I believe that there are people here also who share the same situation.

But that’s not the peak of leadership! According to “Good to Great,” “We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one. Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders… are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” What is amazing is that we don’t have to go through levels 1 to 4 in order to reach level 5. When we deal with our attitude, we jump to level 5 from whatever level we are in. Thus, the Level 5 Leader is the leader who accomplishes so much because he does not care who gets the credit. It’s the leader who cares more for the organization than for himself or for his image. It’s the leader who asks what he can do for the company rather than what the company can do for him. In short, Level 5 Leadership is servant-leadership.

Just imagine! Jim Collins and his good-to-great research team devoted a total of 15,000 hours of effort, studied 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts of CEOs and created 384 million bytes of computer data… just to come up with a conclusion that the Bible have taught throughout the centuries. The Bible is still the best source for leadership principles. The concept of servant-leadership is taught in the word of God all along. The Bible teaches us that SERVING is a HIGH CALLING. The way up is down. We lead by serving. We serve by leading.

Turn with me to the Gospel according to Mark chapter 10. In the previous chapter, the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them. Jesus had to tell them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”[1] Yet it seems, just like us, they never learn. In fact, while our Lord Jesus was predicting His death, all of them were thinking how to position themselves. Our passage tells us, “Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’”[2] Note the next verse: “Then [Circle the conjunction “Then”.] James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’”[3] After the Lord talked about His Passion THEN James and John asked Him to position them as VIPs in His kingdom. How dense can they get? It appears they were not even listening to the Lord. They have their own agenda. In fact, in Matthew 20, we read that it was actually their mother who made the request to Jesus on their behalf. They didn’t even have the guts to tell Jesus personally.

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