We All Want to be Served

I just finished a huge project of consolidating all of the reference materials that I’ve accumulated over the past 20 years or so. I carefully grouped subjects together and even packaged up some text books to enhance “my collection”. When I was going through the HUGE stack of leadership materials, I found a large section of materials on Servant Leadership, a leadership style developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1977. Since that time a number of researchers have tried to define the attributes of what a Servant Leader “looks like”. For me, the answer was simple – Jesus Christ. However, the business world needed more. Skip Prichard (2013) posted a unique summary of many of the scholarly attributes that he believes summarizes the leaders using Servant Leadership:

  • Values diverse opinions
  • Cultivates a culture of trust
  • Develops other leaders
  • Helps people with life issues
  • Encourages
  • Sells instead of tells
  • Thinks you, not me
  • Thinks long-term
  • Acts with humility

The attributes of the Servant Leadership model focus the leader on the needs of the employee. When the organization’s goals are aligned with the employee’s and each individual understands his/her role and the expectations placed on them, the organization is set-up for success. It made me think about how we treat each other and how leaders influence other people. Throughout my 30 plus years in government, I’ve seen and heard about some pretty wild working environments. Today’s workforce expects a Servant Leadership type of leader and no matter where you sit in your career – leader or follower, after seeing this list I hope you agree. As I filed away this little bit of research on the subject, I wanted to share how we all could apply the principles of servant leadership to our lives.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

When I’m asked about Jesus as a servant, my first thought always goes to the night of the last supper when He washed the feet of His disciples; nothing says servant like washing feet. We’ve all heard the story about Jesus feeding of the thousands at a wedding. What we often fail to remember about this “story” was that as that event ended, the people were asking Jesus to be their King. He wanted nothing to do with it and left immediately.

Jesus did not come into this world to be served. Everything we read about Jesus is how he served others – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, turning water to wine at the wedding and teaching everyone the true meaning of the words His Father had written in the scriptures. The most important part of this verse is this: He came to “give His life as ransom for many.” He understood that and continued to serve others until His work was done. No matter what our place in life is, we can be comforted in the fact that Jesus died for us – a final act of Servant Leadership. We are forgiven through him.

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Leading with Thankfulness

Thanksgiving was last week and I had another devotion on thankfulness in my heart to share. As leaders we are in the position to influence the lives of those that work for us, those we work with and occasionally, those who we work for, especially if you are in middle management. We are so busy trying to juggle all of our priorities that sometimes we forget to say “thank you”. We lead people only because they choose to follow us. If they are following us because they have to, well, we are just managing them. True leaders are influencing people’s lives each day by what they say and do. If the people who work for you are truly following, they will alter their perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors all because of you. Maybe you never realized it but you have a lot of power over your employees. For some people, that power goes right to their heads. Last week I suggested that you pick someone who makes your life just a little easier and say thank you to them. I’d like to suggest that you say thanks to the team that follows you. Tell them about the great work they do and how it impacts your business, then tell your coworkers how great it is to work with them and what they do to support you and then thank your boss for what he or she does for you personally and how you’ve grown from your experience working for them. Even if your boss is horrible, you are still learning something. Don’t let this Thanksgiving time slip away without thanking those that make your workdays a little more bearable. As a leader, it’s important for your people to know that you notice and that you care.

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.1 Chronicles 16:8-9

We are taught that when we pray, we should give thanks to God for all that he’s done for us. Even if you are struggling right now, God is with you making you stronger. We often pray when we are worried or if we need something but how often do we pray just to give thanks? We see people accepting awards or scoring points in a sporting event point to the heavens as if to say “thanks to you God”. We don’t have to wait until we win an award or score a touchdown; everyday is reason to celebrate. Today’s verse reminds us to tell others what God has done for us: “tell of all his wonderful acts.” The greatest thing that God has done for us is to send us a savior, someone to intercede on our behalf with God so that our sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ taught us how to live, how to treat each other and how to be saved from ourselves. He is a great leader and deserves our thanks. Today, tell God how thankful you are for everything in your life and ask for the courage to spread to the word.

Leadership Traits

I have recently had several conversations about leadership vs. management. My daughter told me a story about a “manager” in another department that refuses to let his student worker “unplug from her position” in the call center three minutes early so she can catch the noon shuttle back to campus. He told her to bring her things for class and take the 12:20 shuttle. She offered to come in early so they still would get their 4 hours of work from her but he refused. This is a college worker, working on campus, who is trying to make it all work and has someone as a supervisor who is only capable of being a manager. A leader would have helped her and worked out a solution. There have been books written to describe leadership, so I’m not going to do it in a short blog post. The verse for today talks about: “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training”; all good signs of a leader. Taking the time to ensure that your people understand their job is a management function. Taking the time to build their skills and knowledge so that they can grow/advance is leadership. Rebuking, which is the expression of disapproval or criticism is a management skill of correcting unwanted behavior. Leaders that have courage, will not only help others correct mistakes, they take the time to coach their staff toward improvement and will allow mistakes to serve as learning points and not disciplinary moments. Managers will spend time correcting every little thing that people do, sometimes we use the phrase “micro-manage” to describe these people. We have all worked for someone who wants things done a certain way and within a certain time period. A real micro-manager takes their “certain way” and makes changes to everything we’ve done. A leader will correct someone by showing more effective processes, they will explain what and why certain things are important but most of all, they will acknowledge when they too are wrong. Training employees is critical for the overall organization’s success. Teaching is about learning new skills and training is about taking what you know and making it better. Leaders view training as an opportunity to let people experiment and get comfortable with concepts and processes. The signs of a good leader can be found in these traits, modeled by the greatest leader there will ever be.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is one of those verses that sum up the bible – “All Scripture is God-breathed”. It’s amazing to think that these are the words of God given to us through His writers. If you look back through the scriptures, you will see Jesus use teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in all that He did. Whether he was addressing large crowds, small groups, His disciples, His mother or the Pharisees, He was working toward righteousness. The men referred to in these verses are us. We should use these traits to become equipped for every good work. No one will manage us, there is no one to “make” us do it; Jesus (our leader) has given us examples to follow. As sinners, it is easy to fall away from the teachings, no one really knows when we fall and there is no one to discipline us. Our coach and our leader, who is there all of time, is God. He is the one who inspired the scripture and sent His Son to be our savior. We need to embrace the One whom we call “teacher”; He is the one that makes it all right in our Father’s eyes.