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
- 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.
I’ve spent the last three weeks serving the US Army during an exercise they call, Vibrant Response 13-2. I blogged extensively about it last summer but I had a different role this year and didn’t have enough spare time to put them together. The exercise was featured on Fox News this past Wednesday and can be seen at http://video.foxnews.com/v/2601500125001/disaster-training-for-emergency-responders/?playlist_id=938973798001 . I usually serve as the Deputy Area Commander assisting someone else but this year I was privileged to be the Area Commander overseeing the various Incident Commanders with military units assigned to them. I was essentially the director of resources and the collection point of all of the data that came in from the field. I then was tasked with providing it, along with feedback, to the various State and Federal agencies that needed it. I had the information that everyone wanted. We did a good job and kept track of mission completion and work times so that everyone could tell the difference between the perceived truth and the actual truth (ground truth). We worked an average of 13-14 hours a day for 21 straight days (270+ hours) to serve our country and the dedicated soldiers of the US Army. We knew what was expected of us before we left home and that a lot of people would depend on us, especially our customer, to be accurate in both our data collection and it’s interpretation. Our desire to serve was more important than the working conditions or hours. As I look back over the past three weeks and the thousands of soldiers that we directed or influenced, I can’t help but see a strong volunteer military filled with people who have chosen to serve rather than to be served. It was an honor to be part of their education and to work along side them to ensure that our Homeland Response Forces are ready if we should need them. There are great men and women who are serving or who have served our great nation in the military and we should not just remember them on Veterans Day but every day if we get the chance.
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26
In the past few weeks I’ve seen a lot of servant leadership and it always reminds me of Jesus Christ. Jesus was THE servant leader. He knew what was in store for Him but He served us anyway. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, performed miracle after miracle and always did it with our best interests in mind. He was often called Teacher and He served in that role as well. Jesus was determined to reach as many lost souls as He could before His Father would call Him home. Servant leadership means that we give up control of the effort so that others can learn and grow. We serve those that we are trying to lead so that they may become stronger; we are ones making sacrifices for the betterment of others. Jesus’ sacrifice was beyond compare but we are all better off because of it. We are free from sin because the servant leader put us before Himself. We all make sacrifices in our lives but some do it in hopes of getting something in return. Jesus made a sacrifice not to get something in return but to share something with all of us – eternal life. The bonus for Him is that He gets to share that with us. Go out and serve others not because you need something but because you have something wonderful to share, a message of hope and salvation.