If you’ve read any Christian leadership books you’ve likely encountered several definitions for this term before. In all my research I found that Servant Leadership was referred to often, yet the definitions and expositions never resonated with me. Examples of CEOs cleaning up spills in the conference room or upside down pyramids might make a leader appear more authentic or that they care it – rarely captures what a true servant leader is.
As it turns out this surprisingly simple yet incredibly difficult “trait” was written about so long ago it’s almost silly that there’s very few who get it.
However, very few resources ever made the connection the way Paul does in Corinthians. Paul refers to himself as servant and then follows that up with steward. It is hard to truly serve someone unless you value them and that’s what stewardship is. A steward values what he/she is looking after and looks out for the best interest of whatever is being stewarded. Most of us have heard about stewarding money or resource but rarely to hear this word associated with people. The words we use are parenting, husbanding or perhaps some have a “fiduciary” relationship. However, God calls us to go beyond legal definitions, beyond contracts, and beyond familial bonds.
There are two parts of the equation to when it comes to Servant Leadership.
See Others As God See Them
As His Children. He handcrafted each of us into his masterpiece (Eph 2:10) and we are to value each and every person in this way. This is the “Why” behind the stewardship… behind the serving.
Statistically, I know most of the visitors will gloss over these points and just chalk it up to another cliche’d Sunday school lesson. Before we move on, let’s examine your Facebook wall. Do your post edify and uplift, are you using it to connect or complain or worse divided? (Eph 4:29) It something we all have to check. How about something a bit worse… your thoughts and actual words (spoken words) when you talk, how do you speak to others? (Mark 7:20).
That’s a lot of scripture, but servant leadership is not religious. While the Bible can clearly give the right examples here I don’t think it’s something that is exclusive to Christianity.
Business Perspective: As a leader in an organization it’s easy to see people as pieces to a puzzle. No where is this more clear than when having to part ways with an ineffective employee. However, many times I believe that Christian “Servant Leaders” are supposed be willing to make the decision that brings God glory that sometimes may not be the most profitable.
How Servant Leadership Can Be Implemented: It might mean giving more time off to employees than what the industry does. (Chick-fil-a is a great example of a company that practices this trait of Servant Leadership). It might mean giving someone a chance when they make a mistake. Yes, it might even mean that you need to apologize for YOUR failure in contributing to their ineffectiveness. Finally, it might even mean be willing to pray with and help someone that is causing major problems (and deserves to be fired out right).
Serving Isn’t Being Walked On
It’s understanding that God’s given you a responsibility. He’s delegated His authority and you can wield amazing power. However, “With great power come great responsibility.” Serving is taking initiative and responsibility to steward God’s child. I can totally value the members of several of these divisive groups in our society as people, I can even empathize with their opinions. In very many cases, had I had the same experiences as them I might have come to the same conclusion. The bottom line is they are God’s creation.
This does not mean I have to agree with their beliefs. Typically what this looks like is having to think real hard of how to respond in love when someone does something that violates you. What do you do then…. the answer is oddly enough is Humility.
Humility Is Absolute Power Under Control
Parenting offers so many more opportunities to understand this. You absolutely LOVE your children. However, you can totally disagree with their belief that jumping off the 2nd story balcony is a wise choice. However, in the business world, how do you have love? It’s Grace and Truth
Business Perspective: The next time you hire someone remember you’re not hiring them to work for you, you’re actually hiring them to work for them. When you are on a team, it’s not what they can do for you… yep, you guessed – it’s what you can do for them. There’s a great article on Harvard Business Review that talks about Netflix. You won’t find the word “servant leadership” at all there. What you will find is a 124 slides that EXUDE excellence and frankly what it means to be an adult. You have reserved yet controlled power. There’s another word that comes to mind.
Instead, let’s just tell the truth: Technology has changed, the company has changed, and Maria’s skills no longer apply. This won’t be a surprise to her: She’s been in the trenches, watching the work around her shift. Give her a great severance package—which, when she signs the documents, will dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) the chance of a lawsuit.” In my experience, people can handle anything as long as they’re told the truth—and this proved to be the case with Maria.Harvard Business Review
In many instances in a business when someone is ineffective, a couple of things can be assumed.
- You short changed the employee in the hiring process
- They are likely unhappy too.
How Servant Leadership Can Be Implemented: First, LOVE and VALUE them by being articulate and allowing time to listen to what they are saying. Also be truthful, you may have made a mistake and yet you still have to correct it. The truth without love can scar someone, while love without any truth can do the same thing.
Ultimate the equation for Servant Leadership is Truth AND Love.