The hitchhiker’s guide to servant leadership

I was at work a couple of weeks ago preparing for the launch of Grab a Towel… when a colleague came up to me to ask about the origin of the name. “Oh,” she said – rather disappointedly when I told it was from Jesus’ example in John 13, “I thought it also referred to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

I was intrigued… she went on to explain that in Douglas Adams’ classic books, a towel was considered the most important item that any galactical hitchhiker should possess. So I did some research (a grandiose term for a Google search)… and was amazed to discover how integral the simple object of a towel is for an interstellar traveller. In the series of books we learn that it has both practical– as well as “immense psychological value” – see the links below if you are now intrigued yourself!

How wonderful that a 20th-century author confirms what Jesus’ demonstrated in John 13 when Jesus grabbed a towel, wrapped it around his waist, and knelt to wash the Jerusalem dung and muck off his disciples’ feet. In the context of servant leadership, we see that the towel has both practical and spiritual value.

Just as interstellar travellers in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy always carry a towel to aid them on their adventures, so Christ-centred servant leaders should metaphorically grab a towel and daily wrap it round their waist before we interact with the world. The symbolism is clear… the spiritual impact of carrying a towel in readiness to serve others will help us maintain a humble disposition, be ready to do tasks that we think are beneath us, acknowledge our equality with all people, prepare us to think and speak well of others, and resist defending ourselves when we’re accused. Grabbing a towel will help us maintain a Christ-like disposition when faced with an avalanche of daily situations that can tempt us to operate out of pride, selfish gain, or any other traits commonly associated with power and position.

I cannot personally claim the credit for the name Grab a Towel… that goes to my editor – Alastair Metcalfe. But I trust the image will fuel our passion to serve as Jesus served, and that we’ll adopt the same spiritual attitude that He had, in order that we can practically lead from a position of servanthood.

As Christian leaders, we recognise that, as we hitchhike through this world, we will encounter daily challenges that can destroy our credibility, impact our effectiveness, and compromise our witness. The towel, therefore, becomes a vital piece of equipment to enable us to go-the-distance as Christ-centred servant leaders.

The Grab a Towel blog will seek to add value to help fellow hitch-hikers on their journey of Christ-centred servant leadership. It will draw from a variety of sources that contribute and build upon the content of the book. I anticipate that it will become a valuable resource for 21st-century leaders who grab a towel and seek to follow Jesus’ example.


For Douglas Adams’ quote see:

For more information on Towel Day see

Image credit:

Happy World Towel Day!