“We have all been called to be foot-washers”.
~R. Alan Woods 
Frankly, I am stunned I came across this simple, singular thought the other morning, during my increasingly regular 2:00 AM epiphany ritual of late.
For whatever reason that night, I was wrestling with the notion of “servant leadership”. Like there aren’t more important crises to occupy my life. But I digress.
I have long ascribed to this view of, well, leadership. You know, “servant-leadership”.
But to me, something about the verbage and the message always seemed rather bulky, odd and easily misconstrued.
In my view, serving pretty much captures the essence of leading. It is tough to proceed from the latter without first operating from the former.
So if you would indulge this author – yet again – I am supremely confident that I can tie this hot mess of an epiphany into yet another in a long line of football analogies.
As an O-lineman, I fully understood our sole purpose: to both serve and protect our teammates. It was a role chosen for me. One taken up by many others like me. One I chose to embrace.
As such, I willingly acquiesced to one of the most physically demanding, potentially harming and least acknowledged roles known to most athletic endeavors.
Giving myself up so that others could maximize their capacity, surpass their expectations, and ultimately – find success for all of us in the end zone.
Essentially doing my best for them. Protecting those around me from undue suffering – regardless of the “harm” that might be bestowed upon me. Pinning my expectations on fulfilling theirs first.
As a line mate, it was my duty to give it up – all of it – for the man next to me in the huddle and on the LOS. No matter the cost. Physically. Mentally. Or emotionally.
Not from the standpoint of toughness. But rather, from the goal of togetherness. Strength in numbers. Family.
As a teammate, it was my responsibility to leave all I had to give in the weight room during the off-season and on that field – in season. Regardless of where that level of personal abandonment happened to take you.
It was always about the guy by your side.
That is my understanding of service. Then, and now.
All of them first.
True servanthood defined. Albeit from a football guy point of view.
Then, if you were able to process the entirety of those demands, carry them out without bitching, feeling sorry for yourself, come back for even more abuse – all absent accolades – you are articulating to others that it can be done.
Setting the tone first for yourself – by leaving it all out there for them. Exhibiting a willingness to abandon you for the benefit of them. Showing them how it is done by the example you choose to set.
Not just by doing. But by persevering and enduring.
That, is leadership.
I was called to be an O-lineman. A role that fits with other aspects of my personal and professional life. One that now dovetails directly into what I am finding my true calling and purpose to be.
That of being a foot washer.
Now have stubbed my toe more than once in pursuit of this vocation. And I am certain, I will stumble some more. Just like I did on that field and everywhere else in my life. But I am confident my Teammate will be there to pick me up, help me shake it off and show me how it is done.
So if you think about it, and for all practical purposes, the term “servant leadership” is redundant.
For servanthood is leadership defined.
The best kind. In its most genuine sense.
As taught by the One who set the tone for all those that long to follow him, by giving it up for everyone.
Or old O-linemen.
We are hardwired to be connected in this most fundamental, powerful and lasting way. But only if we choose to serve. And give it up for the guy next to us.
An example set first by the greatest Teammate of all.