We’ve been doing a little remodeling the past few weeks and I found myself going through some old paperwork. In it, I found my baptismal and confirmation certificates along with a card from my confirmation. I never knew who my “God Parents” were but I finally do now. Unfortunately, they have both passed away. As I read the note that came with my confirmation papers, I was drawn to the idea of servitude – serving others and being served. I have no idea why I kept the note but it’s meaning is far more impactful today than it was when I received it. Even after all of the classes that I attended for confirmation, there are no better lessons than what life teaches you and how God reveals Himself throughout your life. Here is what the note said:
The best and most meaningful things in life are those which cannot be seen, or touched, but which are felt. On this special day, the meaning of your faith is very real to you. Life has its deepest meaning in Christ. May the sacredness of this time be a rich reminder of your Christian faith, not only in this day but throughout all of your life. May God fill you with His love as you follow the living Christ. May the Holy Spirit give you guidance that your life may be full, and that you may receive the abundance of God’s grace forever. May joy be in your heart today in the knowledge that Christ is your Savior, your friend and your guide.
“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
When I work with the military, I am witness to multiple examples of servant leadership and it always reminds me of Jesus Christ. Jesus was THE servant leader. He knew what was in store for himself 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.
In our lives, we can serve those that we are trying to lead so that they may become stronger; we are the 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.
As I mentioned a few months ago, I’m in a Master’s program for Public Administration at GCU. I’m wrapping up a class 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 why 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 follower. When the organization’s goals are aligned with the employee’s and each individual understands his/her role and the expectations, the organization is set-up for success. It made me think about how we treat each other and how leaders influence other people. Throughout the class, many of my fellow students described some pretty amazing working environments taking place in 2014. At the end of the class we were asked, “should more leaders be using the concepts of servant leadership?” No matter where you sit in your career – leader or follower, after seeing this list I hope you answer the same as I did; with a yes. I wanted to share this little bit of research on the subject to see how we all can 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. Today, we heard in church about Jesus feeding of the thousands. A story we all are familiar with. What I heard today that caught my attention was that as that event ended, the people were asking Jesus to be their King. He wanted nothng to do with it and left immediately. He did not come to be served. He didn’t want earthly things. Every story we read about Jesus is how he served – 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 and that’s what I call service!
“Service Before Self”, is one of the core values of the US Air Force. We all serve someone at some point in our day and usually throughout our lives. As parents, we serve our kids, as spouses we serve our mate and as employees we serve customers – either internal or external to the company. Even leaders have people that they serve. A leader should be someone who is serving those that follow them; the concept of servant leadership. By making their followers stronger, servant leaders build up their staff and work to make them successful. There are people in leadership positions who wrongfully believe that since they are in this place of “power” that people should be serving them. A true leader is more concerned about how they can support and help those that follow them. Ken Blanchard writes extensively about servant leadership and his research on leadership. We all see many people today who are simply serving themselves. The millennium generation grew up watching the greed of Wall Street and “leaders” serving their own interests. If anyone else benefited, well, that was just extra. So, who are you serving? I would suggest putting your focus on others and see what comes of it. I have benefited from a number of mentors in my life and I have also played that role for others. It is immensely satisfying and rewarding to help others when there is nothing to be gained.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
St. Paul wrote a lot about serving others in his letters, focusing much of his attention on humility. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds them to be humble proclaiming “I came to you in weakness and fear”, he was asking them to serve others with humility too. Using Jesus as our example, ask yourself, how did He show humility for us? The first thing that comes to my mind is the washing of His disciple’s feet at the last supper. The leader of the group, the leader of the heavens washed feet. Jesus was serving us! The Son of God and God Himself was serving us so that we would have eternal life. God has prepared the good works for us. He has set the course, put people in our lives and us in the lives of others so that we could execute the plan He has for us. God has prepared these good works for us in advance; they aren’t chance but these opportunities are given to us to do God’s work. We are not put here to do our works or to be boastful. My apologies to the Air Force but “Service Before Self” really came from God, was demonstrated to us by Jesus and now we must humble ourselves to serve others, just as God planned.
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.
Whether we are in customer service, accounting, marketing or leadership positions, we are always serving a customer of some sort. Sometimes they are internal customers and sometimes they are the paying customers; either way, they can be demanding. St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a great reminder of how we should act toward each other. The old adage of the “customer is always right” seems to have gone away with the full-service gas station. People in the customer service business these days seem to be bothered with us “customers” and our needs. As a leader, have you turned this way also? Do you think that people are there to serve you? How do you react when they need something or some help? Leaders must learn to deal with all types of people who have all types of needs. The management theory of situational leadership applies today more than any other time. The principle is that every situation (or person) requires a different approach than you used the last time or perhaps will use the next time. It requires patience, humility and gentleness.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
This verse is one of God’s directions for us. He teaches us, through St. Paul, how we should treat and live with each other. I haven’t found a person who enjoys the company of someone who isn’t humble and treats people poorly. We tend to tolerate these people in our lives because we have to, not because we want to. We are taught to love all of God’s creatures but some people make that very hard! Remain patient and tolerant, God is teaching you something. How do you act toward others? Are you the person that people merely tolerate? Are you gentle and humble with those who serve you? Take time to examine yourself and apply the direction that God is giving us.
Some in leadership positions believe in the RHP principle; rank has privilege. They believe that since they are in charge that certain privileges and rights are solely theirs; that others serve in support of them and at their will. This of course, could not be farther from the truth. Our job as leaders is to provide our people with the tools necessary to do their job; these tools include physical property and the knowledge and understanding to get the job done. We cannot support them if we aren’t working for them and they can’t support you if they aren’t equipped for the job at hand. Over the years, a lot has been written about the concept of servant leadership; when you lead others by serving them and helping them to be successful. A manager has the freedom to do what they want to and they can choose how it’s done; it’s the privilege of being a manager (having rank). If however, you are a leader, you will not use your freedom to indulge in RHP (sinful nature) but will serve others as you lead them.
Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge in sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
We all enjoy freedom and God has given us the ability to make free will choices. Free will means that we are not bound to anyone or anything, but we need to remember the first commandment – “You shall have no other God”. Do not be bound by your love for material things, possessions, positions, money, etc. You are free to choose to give your love to God and serve Him. Do not indulge in the sinful nature and avoid the traps of living today. We should serve one another in love. Jesus gave us a great example of serving others in love. He knew what people were thinking, he performed miracles, he was presented gifts and he was free to roam the countryside. He served in love, He taught along the way and showed us the way through His life. Most importantly, he gave himself for us as the ultimate demonstration of being a servant leader.