We like to think leaders are loud and bold. We see leaders as those who take charge of a situation and are quick to make decisions. They are placed in positions of power where everyone can see their talents. But when we look at our leader, Christ Jesus, he does not fit the description. Jesus did not announce himself or stand on a podium, he washed the feet of others and left the crowds to pray in private. Jesus was a servant leader.
Jesus says in Matthew 20:26-28, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The good news is servant leadership does not require any special skill or talent, it simply requires you offer what you have.
Jason Krueger recognized this “servant leader” quality in his younger brother, a story he told at his 2018 graduation from Guelph’s Leadership program. Jason’s brother and parents were in the audience but were unaware of what Jason was going to share in honour of him.
“Jim’s congenital condition is mostly hidden from plain sight. Partially obscured is the fact that he is also a leader. He volunteers selflessly and cares for others in a way that I have seldom observed.”
The following story from my first residential week illustrates a number of leadership constructs that became even more meaningful to me during the Leadership program. In one of our papers, we were asked to reflect upon and write about our learnings this first week that most profoundly changed our understanding of leadership.
My younger brother Jim was blessed with a congenital condition called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, or “ACC”. The corpus callosum is the largest connective pathway between the left and right hemispheres in the brain. In order to process information, coordinate movement, or think about complex information, the hemispheres need to communicate. It’s not the only pathway, but it is the most important one. Jim doesn’t have a corpus callosum.
Behavioral characteristics of ACC include:
- Delays in attaining developmental milestones including walking, talking, and reading;
- Poor motor coordination;
- Difficulties on multidimensional tasks;
- Challenges with social interactions;
- Atypical sensitivity to particular sensory cues.
Medicine has made many advancements in the last 47 years, but when he was a baby, the doctors told mom and dad they believed Jim would never speak, would not see, would not walk, nor be able to feed himself. As the years passed, mom and dad were determined to see Jim succeed to the best of his potential.
When Jim was 16, the support of numerous specialists at The Alberta Children’s Hospital was ending. In the final report from this group, the physician who spoke on their behalf said that had it not been for the love and support of his parents, Jim would not have reached such a high level of functioning. Jim received his high school equivalency diploma when he was 18.
Jim’s congenital condition is mostly hidden from plain sight. Partially obscured is the fact that he is also a leader. He volunteers selflessly and cares for others in a way that I have seldom observed. He has poured his time into organizations including STARS Air Ambulance, The Salvation Army, Alberta Children’s Hospital, and The Foothills Hospital where alone he has given more than 5,000 hours. At present he volunteers at an adult supportive living facility by sharing tea and conversing with residents. His is a life of service to others. He gives the ethic of time and demonstrates empathy. He has a massive “third ear,” the ear of empathy. Sometimes leadership is not readily apparent. He leads quietly.
It is my qualified opinion that although Jim was diagnosed with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, he also presents as Servus Ducis – the servant leader. Isn’t it amazing that in spite of what he does not possess, he is able to be a leader with what he does possess? Isn’t it amazing that through determination, compassion, commitment, and love, my parents were able to lead Jim towards success? Believe me – I have always known who my brother is, but it was through the purposeful act of reflection that I first understood him to be a leader. I encourage you to pour into others’ lives, and to make use of what you have been given.
Jim lives a life of quiet servant leadership. He doesn’t mope over the things he cannot do, he gives where he can with what he has. That is a lesson we could all learn. Use the tools you already have and lead where God has placed you.
Written by Jason Krueger
Jason is the president and CEO of CCMBC Legacy Fund Inc. and CCMBC Investments Ltd.