By Mike Riley

Once there was a mild-mannered man who was reading a book on being self-assertive. Wanting to put the teachings of the book into practice, he decided to start at home. So he stormed into his house, pointed a finger in his wife’s face, and said:

“From now on I’m boss around here and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a gourmet meal and draw my bath. Then, when I’ve eaten and finished my bath, guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?”

“The mortician,” replied his wife.

King Rehoboam tried that kind of self-assertiveness, and it turned Israel against him (2 Chronicles 10:1-19). When he came to the throne, the people pleaded for less oppressive taxation. His older advisors urged him to heed their request, but his young friends told him to be even more demanding than his father. As a result of listening to his peers, 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel seceded and formed a new kingdom (2 Chronicles 10:16-17).

Good leaders don’t rely on domineering self-assertion — not at home, not in the church, nor in business. Rather, they balance self-assertiveness with the principle of submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21). They listen respectfully, admit when they’re wrong, show a willingness to change, and mix gentleness with firmness. That’s submissive leadership — and it works!

Let’s remember that the only leaders qualified to lead are those who have learned to serve (John 13:1-17; cf. Matthew 20:20-28).