The other day in our staff devotionals I saw a great teaching video. A man sat on a bench talking of leadership in terms of a cup of coffee. You think when you first see him that he is a high powered business man as he speaks of a successful friend of his. Turns out he is a chauffeur. His friend who is a housekeeper, turns out to be a lay leader in the church. You get the point the leaders are servants, the servants are leaders. All the while he holds a disposable travel cup of coffee. The points made about the cup are so true and it’s something I have been chewing on for a few days now in terms of being a leader.

We all want to be the cup:

The cup is the one that seems to have the most important job. It’s the obvious leader in this scenario. Without the cup we are all trying to sip hot coffee from our hands. The cup holds everything important and they are the one who appears to make sure vision is cast and goals are met.

Sometimes though a leader is:

The lid: Have you ever tried to drive holding a cup without a lid? It keeps the contents where they are supposed to be, and even helps retain heat a little longer. There are times when we are the one who helps hold everything in place and make sure the vision is clear and understood.

The sleeve: You know that’s the little cardboard thing that keeps us from burning our hands. The sleeve supports that cup. It makes sure the cup and the lid can do their job correctly. As a leader sometimes we are the ones who support the team. We’ve all heard that corny saying, “There’s no I in team.” The sleeve understands this. In this position we make sure the team is working well together. When we lead as the sleeve, it’s about making sure the vision is accomplished successfully.

The napkin: Alright this isn’t part of the cup, but it’s needed alongside our analogy. The napkin comes along to clean up the spills that happen along the way. The napkin is perhaps the least celebrated portion of our analogy. No one wants to be this type of leader, if we are honest. In this position we get out of the way of all that appears important, and we make sure that a mess isn’t left behind. The video made this point about the napkin: instead of focusing on stepping up and leading, it’s focus is stepping down and serving.

I wonder who we will choose to be today? It’s easy to throw around a lot of talk about being the napkin (servant) when really we are demanding to be the cup. When is the last time you stepped back and asked yourself, “Who can I serve today?” In all honesty, I know very few leaders who are genuinely willing to be anything other than the cup. They want to be the ones who are seen out front. Yet, the leaders I am most willing the follow are the ones who I see lead by genuinely stepping back.

 In this Christmas season I think we see so clearly how our God modeled this type of leadership. There is no more humble a position than the King of Kings choosing to restore relationship with His children by coming to this place as a baby born to a teen Mom, among the animals. Our Great Shepherd reminded us of his position by making the first birth announcement to the lowly working class while they were out in the fields. It may sound crass, but Jesus knew exactly what it was to be the napkin. He came to clean up our mess. Here’s my favorite point of the teaching. No matter who we are in this scenario let’s remember when we are ministry we are never, ever the coffee.

Which leader will you be today? Be honest.

*** If you are looking for the  video I could not find it anywhere for “free.”  If you would like to purchase it you can read more about it and purchase it here: