“. . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . .”
- Matthew 20:26
Thanksgiving day I found myself slaving over the sink in my son’s kitchen for most of the morning washing pots and pans, the job to which I had been relegated, while he was preparing the turkey to be roasted and blending together the ingredients for our family’s traditional cornbread dressing (or stuffing as some prefer to call it). For years that had been my job, but now my sons have taken it over. And as much as I love doing it, it delights me to see them jump in and take the lead.
Preparing a Thanksgiving feast in our family is not something that can be accomplished by simply following instructions from a written recipe; rather it must be learned through an apprenticeship with a master. That’s the way my father had learned, by serving as an apprentice to his mother, the master. In due time my brother and I learned by working side by side with our dad. Eventually when my own sons came of age they in turn apprenticed under me. Now they are the masters, and the family turkey and dressing tradition carries on. Hopefully one day they will pass it along to their children.
The late French President Charles de Gaulle once said, “Our graveyards are full of indispensable men.” What he meant by that according to Russ Crosson in his book, What Makes a Leader Great, is that “he was talking about men and women who falsely believe they could not be replaced; therefore, there was no forethought about the next generation.” That is, in fact, the premise of Crosson’s book that what makes great leaders truly great is to “lead in order to replace” themselves,” not so they become irreplaceable.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” and great leaders serve by preparing others to take their place. That’s how their good works are carried on, while the indispensable eventually wind up buried in the graveyard. So being relegated to washing pots and pans Thanksgiving morning was no chore for me; for it delights me to see my sons jump in and take the lead. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.