Tennis is a fascinating sport. I seldom watch it at home but ironically it is the one thing I leave on the hotel TV when traveling. I love watching all the court staff, ball boys/girls, and referees that surround the 2 marquee players in any given match. There is so much going on before and after ever set in order to maintain order, etiquette, and minimize downtime between serves.
In 2014, there was a rain delay in the first-round match at the 2014 French Open that lasted for just over 10 minutes. Nothing out of the ordinary. But what happened in those 10 minutes is something that any leader, aspiring leader, husband, wife, or friend can learn from. One of the world’s best, Novak Djokovic, sat down to tend to his gear while the ball boy silently held an umbrella over Novak’s head to keep him dry. Without hesitation, Novak broke from typical tradition by inviting the boy to sit with him and reversed roles by holding the umbrella for him. The boy’s countenance immediately changed, and his elation could no doubt be seen in the farthest seats of the arena. Small, private discussions continued as Novak handed over his racket and a water bottle from his bag. The investment made in that boy will be felt for his lifetime. It’s a story he’ll never stop telling. In that moment, the leader, the global icon, and arguably one of the most powerful people in that arena took on the role of a servant. He held the umbrella.
I’ve listened to business executives say that they’ll take hire candidates out to dinner in order to solely watch their interactions with the restaurant staff and servers. How we treat the people around us says a lot about our character. Have you paused recently to look around at all the people who are holding the umbrella for you? For me, it’s my wife… first and foremost. There are so many things (both visible and invisible) that she does on a daily basis in order to remove barriers and distractions so i can accomplish my goals. My boss. He holds an umbrella for me and my teammates while simultaneously shielding us from situations and communications that could be stressful and burdensome. My family, mentors, church leadership, and friends do this as well. Not to mention the restaurant servers, dry cleaning people, car washers, mechanics, financial advisors, baristas, plumbers, gutter cleaners, law enforcement, teachers, lawn maintenance, trash people, and babysitters that take care of the rain so I can focus on the match ahead of me.
When’s the last time you have held the umbrella? When’s the last time you’ve done it for your wife? What a crazy, cool ting to actually serve the person that thought they were serving you. I make it a priority to look for ways to serve Kate that she is not expecting. She gives 110% every day to our family, friends, community, and ministry. It is so rewarding to hold the umbrella for her so she can take a break, sit down, relax, and get a reprieve from her duties. Jesus said that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). This is a value we should embrace daily.
I challenge you to become more aware and to notice the hundreds if not thousands of things done for each of us every single month by people whom we may never know their names or stories. Make an effort to go out of your way to be appreciative. And for those individuals who are intimately involved in our daily lives, the onus is even greater to find ways to humble ourselves, and place those people’s interests and needs above our own. True leadership is modeled by servanthood. Follower-ship is gained by selflessness and service. Who are you going to hold the umbrella for this week?