Leadership positions and committee assignments in Congress are being decided during these days in January and the leaders of the Senate and House of Representative have more power over the rank and file than ever before.
Leadership positions from the very top with the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, through the committee chairmanships and among the heads of the many official caucuses in both chambers define the tone and temper of Congress. And individual senators and representatives set the leadership example for their committee and personal staffs.
The ambition to lead when matched with needed skills and channeled and controlled properly can be a great blessing in society. The problem, thanks to the Original Sin that affects every human being, however, is that ambition to lead too often and too easily becomes ambition to exalt oneself over others.
Jesus Christ described and exemplified the totally opposite form of ambition and leadership in His life. He defined it at Mark 10:42-45 when He said:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you.
On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Think about that: Leadership as it’s commonly understood means acquiring power to direct others; while leadership properly understood as it was defined by Jesus means to put oneself at the service of others.
He did that, even to the point of an agonizing death on the cross, dying in humiliation and being resurrected three days later to provide eternal salvation to every person who puts their trust in Him.
Among the beautiful things about this understanding of servant leadership is that it can be exercised by every individual in daily life, not just by those in positions of power and influence.
I believe it has particular application for congressional staff members. Here’s why: Imagine that you are the legislative director for a senator or representative. You have staff members you direct in their daily tasks of providing legislative research, insight and advice for the boss.
What if at the outset of every day your first question to your staff is this: “What can I do to help you in your work today?” Your boss has told you what he or she needs from you in order to be an effective senator or representative and based on that charge, you set the tone and direction for the colleagues you lead.
You’ve set the tone and direction; now make it your focus to be the difference that enables your colleagues to do their best work. Be an encourager, build them up, provide constructive, not destructive, criticism.
Your boss gets what he or she needs, which makes you look good, and your colleagues love you because you help them do their work more productively, which makes them look good. Everybody wins.
Just try it for a month. Then let me know, confidentially, how it goes.