Matthew 23, 1-12
Of all the tasks and duties one can be assigned with in life, leading other people certainly isn’t the easiest one. Persons with authority might misunderstand their power as ‘power over’, and they might, just might have the crooked perception that leading other people, guiding people is best done by keeping them on a very short leash and confine them with very strict rules.
That’s how the Farizees and the elders in this gospel do it. Jezus rightly tells them that this isn’t the way to do it. That really isn’t the right way for people to deal with other people. Not even, no, especially not when they are in a position of authority, when they are in command or in charge of leading others.
But how should it be done then? Well, maybe like this: a friend of mine recently got a job as a manager in a non-profit organisation. Her team consists of some twenty people. O my gosh, I thought, when she told me. Of course I kept my big mouth shut because she was so happy and proud and enthousiastic and all. But the main reason I kept quiet was the fact that her team was also very enthousiastic and committed. With her as their manager they worked much better and with a lot more fun than with the former manager. Apparently he had been the classical bossy type whose main purpose in life seemed to be keeping everything and everyone under control.
Now that, my friend said, is so not my idea of being a manager. I’m not going to treat these people like half-trained puppies or keep them short like stubborn mules. They are well-educated grown-ups and very capable of doing a good job, for crying out loud. They don’t need me to tell them what to do or watch them over the shoulder all the time. They know very well how to do their job and besides, I have other things to do.
And that’s where she got it right altogether. People perform so much better if you support and inspire them and respect their unique talents and abbilities. Much better than by just being the typical bully, whip in hand, commanding and controlling them all the time. By the way: by working hard herself she gained a lot respect and set an example that really motivated them. And surely they were willing to go the extra mile for her.
Leading people, being a manager, works so much better this way, and not just on the workplace, between employers and employees. It works wherever people have to deal with each other and somehow have to make their way through life together. If you want to hold back people from doing evil and encourage them to do good, then by all means, set an example yourself. Be a good role-model, modest, trustworthy and sincere. There is no point in talking about ‘Kingdom come’ and things like that while sitting on your hands all the time.
If you really want to bring closer that new world Jezus is talking about, then show it with your actions, not just with your words. Show it by living these visions and values yourself, authentically and consistent, day by day. That is leadership as it’s meant to be, because it does not intimidate and frighten people, but because it truly inspires them to come along vigorously. That’s leadership as it should be: serving and caring. Not self-centered but compassionately focused on the well-being of others and of the world as a whole.