I recently read the book 4 Chair Discipling by Dann Spader. I was particularly struck by the following illustration (which I’ve quoted at length), which helps us understand the responsibility we have as Christ-centred servant leaders to maintain faithful stewardship (see Grab a Towel chapter 3) of the Gospel which God has entrusted to us.

Reading Grab a Towel is not meant to be a purely academic exercise!

Growth in leadership comes through ‘doing life together’– literally, sitting round a table (preferably over a meal or at least a coffee) and engaging deeply, holding one another accountable, and encouraging one another to become more proficient leaders.

For too long, leaders have been told that revealing weaknesses leaves us open to being exploited and manipulated. I believe this is a leadership myth that desperately needs to be busted.

The mantra goes something like: ‘If you don’t have the confidence to follow through on a decision, then fake it till you make it.’ In other words, deceive your followers into thinking that you don’t have doubts, that you are somehow impenetrable in your conclusions, and, therefore, you are devoid of weaknesses.

This is the first in a series of posts where I want to do some leadership myth-busting. I believe there are certain myths about leadership that have become accepted as things that simply go with the turf of being a leader in the 21st century. In particular, when these myths are examined against Scripture and the example of Jesus (our ultimate standard in Grab a Towel), then they become busted as fabrications that can prevent leaders from fulfilling their God-given potential as leaders.

If we are to exert godly influence as leaders, then we must prioritise becoming Christ-centred servant leaders which should shape our entire approach to life and ministry… I believe that a critical foundation of servant leadership is that those in leadership see themselves primarily as custodians/stewards. We can get ourselves into all kinds of trouble when we forget this principle.

there is an insidious threat to Christian leaders that looks like we’re putting people first, but it is actually the antithesis of servant leadership. Rather than putting people first, we succumb to the disease of being a people -pleaser.

There’s a scene in the Matrix where Neo first enters the computer generated world and is learning to live counter to what he has been programmed his whole life. He is with his mentor, Morpheus, and they are walking against the tide of hundreds of people on a city’s streets. Morpheus, overcoming the confines of his mind, is able to walk without bumping into anyone – parting the proverbial Red Sea of people. Neo, on the other hand, bumps into everybody and is unable to avoid all the tide of people in his path.

I believe that the experience of a Christ-centred servant leader is more like Neo’s experience than Morpheus’s.

On April 9th 1945, 23 days before the Nazis’ surrender and the end of the Second World War, Hitler’s orders to hang Dietrich Bonhoeffer were carried out. Bonhoeffer had been imprisoned for almost exactly two years. His legacy, however, is not just as an opponent to Nazism through involvement in the active resistance to Hitler’s evil regime, but is primarily as a preeminent theologian and humble Christ-centred servant leader. He was a ‘deep-well’ leader… combining depth of theological insight together with fruitful ministry… the fruit of which has extended into the century beyond his physical life.

Grab a Towel presents a contrast between two types of leadership: the superhero and the servant. I am constantly reminded of the importance of this distinction - whether considering leadership in politics, business or church ministry.

The following is an extract of a speech that I gave at The Message Trust’s Urban Hero Awards. The Awards celebrated stories of transformation - men and women who, against all odds, were now exerting a positive influence in society. This speaks to the heart of what Grab a Towel is all about… providing an environment for emerging leaders to flourish in faith and life - this is an ultimate act of service.

The history of humanity is a litany of devastation and destruction when the 'us' rises against 'them'. Even in leadership speak we have 'leaders' and 'followers'… which risks causing an unnecessary “us” and “them” divide in our organisations, on our teams, and in our churches. Grab a Towel seeks to break down the myth of us and them... recognising that as Christians we are all followers, and we are all leaders - carrying influence in this world. There is no them, it's only us…

The Superhero movie is a film genre that still reliably draws crowds to the cinema. The depiction of a person with superhuman powers, willing to battle for justice against forces of evil, has been a winning formula on screen for over a century. But in recent times I’ve noticed that there has been a significant shift in the way superheroes are portrayed…

Maybe a more critical question for Christian leaders is not ‘are we born leaders’, but, ‘are we effective followers?’ The essential unifying quality of every Christ-centred servant leader is that they are first and foremost a follower…