Jesus was talking to his disciples and he said this. “You’ve observed how….rulers throw their weight around and how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you.” Matthew 20:25, The Message.
Jesus’ statement came directly after one of his disciples asked for appointment to a seat of power for her sons in what she thought the Kingdom was going to be. Sound familiar?
Jesus correctly understood the nature of human beings. We love power, and we’re drawn to it like moths to light. We mistakenly think that power-grabs are the only way to get things done, particularly when it is the way we, personally, want to get things done.
So it’s not unusual to hear of restructuring, selling off, and pink-slipping in the service of personal ambition or power plays. In such strategies it doesn’t matter who gets hurt or whether truth is spoken. Truly, “the end justifies the means.”
Jesus’ prescription for the ills of power is to be a servant. Sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it?. But most of what Jesus said sounds counter intuitive. “The first shall be last.” “Whoever will be first must be slave to all.” Those who know the skills of human motivation and empowerment know the truth of what Jesus said. Most times, power ploys blow up on their perpetrators. They may seem expedient on the front end, but eventually the wheels come off that strategy.
A person who demands, pushes, constrains, and belittles creates employees or volunteers who are unmotivated to provide their best effort. Such methods do not appeal to the heart and soul of folks who want to do something meaningful with their lives. Instead, they feel objectified and demonized – mere tools to be manipulated in the service of the “lord.”
It’s easy to see when a person “converts” from being a cheerful, enthusiastic contributor to a resentful cog-in-a-wheel. Conversations change from support to criticism. They start to look for ready exits, no longer thinking their work has meaning. Resentment takes over, and joy walks out the door.
Lords don’t get this. So they’re often mystified by the animus they feel from the peons of their organization, and thoughts of empowering others rather than belittling them never crosses their minds.
Jesus knew this. “….rulers throw their weight around…but it’s not going to be that way with my disciples.” Western corporations could learn a big lesson from that and also save themselves a lot of grief.
But it requires that they first start asking some questions: “What do you think about that?” “How would you do this if you were in charge?” “How do you think we could do this more effectively?” And, of course, “Thank you for your help.”
When leaders start SERVING their workers, great good can be accomplished.