by Ross Waltisbuhl, Deputy Principal

At the conclusion to a Year 9 camp many years ago, I was given a small wooden cross. It was fashioned from local silky oak timber.

In preparing a reflection about servant leadership for the commissioning of our Student Representative Council members, I was reminded of the silky oak story told to me by the granddaughter of a Gubbi Gubbi elder.

She explained that the only time to catch eels was when the silky oak was in flower. They understood that the tree was an indicator species. At this time the eels were plentiful and the Gubbi Gubbi fishermen knew to share their catch with everyone in the group and respect the land, and the food it provided. They had been taught sustainable practices and the concept of giving in order that all would benefit.

2000 years earlier, Jesus was teaching his disciples a similar lesson.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The silky oak cross reminds me that good leadership requires selfless service. Leaders should begin with serving in their family context, and then consider how they can impact in ever-widening circles. The flowering trees pointed to the abundance waiting in the stream and as leaders we should point to the abundant blessing of God and be grateful. Great leaders seek to include everyone and exclude none. Finally, respect should be the hall mark of a servant leader. Jesus used a very simple act before a significant meal to demonstrate servant leadership and he made a substantive promise as he finished. He said, if you follow my example and humble yourself as a leader, you will be blessed.

So, in any leadership role, consider the cross, remember the example of Christ and seek to serve with generosity.