“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” ~John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Leaders set the pace and model the standard for their team. The example of the leader will affect the behavior of the team members. We must always be aware of the tension that exists between our “rights” and our “responsibilities” as leaders. This natural tension must be managed well.
Most followers assume that the higher you go in an organization, the more rights you have. The opposite is actually true. Taking on more responsibility will require you to give up some rights. John Maxwell calls this “The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader must give up to go up”. Leaders have to give up more than others in order to effectively fulfill their responsibilities to move the team forward.
Business entrepreneurs and founders of organizations know this principle very well. To them, the title “Owner” or “CEO” means you get to the office first and you leave the office last. It also means you pay everyone else first and pay yourself last. Your responsibilities as a leader always takes priority over any rights you or others may think you have. In a startup organization, understanding this principle is often a matter of survival.
When you are the leader, you are not only responsible for the success of the organization; you are also responsible for all the people in the organization. I call this the weight of leadership. Knowing when and how to take on responsibility and give up rights is the sign of a mature and secure leader. Strong leaders will assume the responsibility to protect and preserve the rights and interests of their people even if they have to give up some of their own rights. This is the essence of Servant Leadership. The Apostle Paul demonstrates this principle in his letter to Philemon.
I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me…I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. (Philemon 1:8-9, 14 NLT)
Paul had the rights and authority to command Philemon to do what he wanted him to do. Instead, Paul was a servant leader and took the time to reason with Philemon. This became a teachable moment both in the life of Philemon as well as for many in the early church.
Servant leaders give up their rights to take on responsibilities for the good of their people and the good of their organization. Ask God to give you wisdom as a leader today to know what rights you must give up and what responsibilities you must pick up. Every servant leader needs this discernment of duty.