Personal character is a summation of the qualities that define us as an individual and as a leader. Character is the key to leadership.

In his book, On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis notes that research at Harvard University indicates that 85% of a leader’s performance depends on their personal character. There is no denying that a person’s character is absolutely critical in their success as a servant leader.

People of high character can be trusted and they align their actions with their words. Jesus modeled servant leadership for us by washing his disciples’ feet. He clearly aligned his actions with his words. Our King, performing the task of the lowest person in the room because no one else stepped up to do it is quite the model for us on how we should be serving others.

Servant leaders profess to think about others first. We talk about serving people’s needs and helping them to fulfill their God-given potential. So what is the equivalent in today’s world of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet?

Ways that you might attempt to “wash people’s feet”:

  • Know their names and personal interests
  • Send personalized signed birthday cards
  • Push your work aside when someone wants to talk to you and give them 100% of your attention
  • Listen intently to their concerns and address those concerns to the best of your ability
  • Take the time to walk the floor on all shifts to see how everyone is feeling about their work
  • Be present enough to see specific accomplishments and let them know how much you appreciate their great work and efforts
  • Periodically serve meals on all shifts to acknowledge the efforts of the team
  • Come in on weekends to show support and appreciation for the weekend crew
  • Jump in and help on tasks that need to be done, no matter how menial they seem
  • Rake a neighbor’s leaves for them
  • Take meals to someone who just had a baby, or who is sick

I always wish I would do more, as I feel I fall short in these areas all the time. To help, I bring people into accountability with me to help me stay focused in this area. I want to improve.

The great thing about truly serving others is that it is a choice. While issues of character are developed over time, the more intentional we are about working towards positively serving and developing others we will enhance our character and our effectiveness as servant leaders.

What are your modern day ways that you “wash people’s feet”?

Mark Deterding

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15