“Honour one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
There is a popular view of leadership that puts the leader in the spotlight. Leaders are the ones with talent, skill and energy; their gifts are to be exercised to release their potential and allow them to make the most of their ability to lead.
That might be a bit of a caricature of a leader, but it’s certainly a danger in leadership. It’s also a picture of leadership that the Bible cuts across completely.
“Honour one another above yourselves” says Paul to the church in Rome. The apostle Paul was certainly a gifted leader. Yet he encourages the church to see that leading is not about ourselves, our greatness or our honour. It is about the honour and building up of others.
It might not seem obvious, but Paul is talking directly about what it means to lead here. What he says is more literally translated ‘lead by honouring others’. The picture he uses is of someone who takes the vanguard – leading the way in a military procession or an advancing army. It is perhaps the quintessential picture of leadership. But the way to take the lead as a Christian, says Paul, is to lead by honouring others. The way to walk first is to bring other people forward.
Christian leadership does not put the spotlight on ourselves. Rather, leading by honouring others puts the spotlight on them. As leaders, we are to highlight their skills, gifts, talents and unique contribution to God’s family. To lead is to bring out the best in others, allowing them to flourish and develop, and enabling them to use their gifts in God’s service. To develop as a leader is to develop others and help them grow.
Leading by honouring others is about giving others a chance to shine. It is stepping out of the spotlight ourselves and letting that spotlight illuminate someone else. It’s very easy to get on and do things ourselves. It’s usually the quickest and simplest thing and it has the advantage of being done the way we like it, because we are the ones who are doing it! But that is a recipe for burnout, and it’s also not the way we are called to lead. Honouring others means giving others the chance to lead – and to make mistakes. It means stepping aside and out of the limelight, and allowing others to step forward and take their turn and shine.