The Way Up Is Still Down

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.
— Matthew 20:26 NIV

The all-consuming drive to get to the top can blind us to what "moving up" really means. Max De Pree helps us keep perspective. In Leadership Jazz, he writes:

"Moving up in the hierarchy does not confer competence. This is hard to keep in mind. The entire metaphor of hierarchy, of moving up the ladder, lures many people into the trap of believing that position equals ability. Careful observers of business, colleges, and families--especially people at the heart of these groups--have witnessed over and over the heartache and havoc, strain and stupidity, brought on by the foolish notion that a promotion invariably increases one's competence. Many people honestly believe that a promotion or change in status instantly and mystically qualifies them to handle any problem that comes their way or that they may seek out. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Max De Pree reminds us that a promotion ought to make one grateful and humble, not arrogant and oblivious. Gratitude and humility are essential for anyone climbing the ladder of success, but they are indispensable for all who want to follow in the way of Jesus:

  • "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11 ESV
  • "So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty." Luke 17:10 ESV

The Christian lives by an oxymoronic creed:

The way up is down!

Promotion results in a keen sense of stewardship. One rises to the top to stoop and serve, to pause and listen, to clap and cheer.

There is no room for arrogance, only gratitude for the privilege and humility in the service.


[1] Max De Pree, Leadership Jazz, page 34.