“Servant Leadership can be a bad thing. You’re so busy being nice and empathetic to your people that you don’t address problems.”
“I don’t agree with Servant Leadership. The organization must be priority. Organization first, then the people.”
“I’m not really convinced that Servant Leadership works. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your organization is fire someone.”
I have heard these statements in conversations within the last few months. Servant Leadership is a popular concept among churches and faith-based organizations. It is gaining support in other circles, as well. At the same time, Servant Leadership is also misunderstood.
The ideals of Servant Leadership are based on the ministry of Jesus Christ, and represent a higher type of leadership.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35 NIV).
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT).
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13 NLT).
The emphasis on love and serving often paints a picture of gentleness and kindness. Servant Leaders may be mistakenly thought as big-hearted softies, mild manner pushovers allowing conflict to go unchecked and people to do whatever they want. On the contrary, Servant Leaders serve from a position of personal strength and security, confident in the role entrusted to them.
Consider five qualities of Servant Leadership and their descriptions.
Love is the foundation of Servant Leadership. It is moral love, expressed as “doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason.” It places followers’ interests first because they are intrinsically valuable. Servant Leaders do not shy away from speaking the truth in love, because they desire the highest good for everyone involved. They listen intently to others, seeking to understand and empathize. They affirm and celebrate people, even when rejecting their behavior or performance.
Servant Leaders are committed to the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of every person under their leadership. They promote collaboration in an environment of mutual respect. They do not hold protectively to their own power but are willing to share it appropriately with others. Learning opportunities are provided for people to develop their strengths and talents, equipping them to excel in their current positions and preparing them for greater responsibility.
Humble leaders are wise leaders. They do not seek elevated status because of position, accomplishments, or talents. They are comfortable in their own skin, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and readily admitting their mistakes. Servant Leaders believe that their experience, skills, and influence must be used to benefit others before themselves. They realize the position of leadership is a gift from God, bestowed on them in order to be a blessing.
Servant Leaders are trusted by their followers. Their abilities to influence and foster a sense of community gain the confidence of others. Trust is a two-way street. Servant Leaders extend trust to others. They have confidence in their followers, and willingly extend responsibility to those who have demonstrated themselves capable of responsibility. Together they are good stewards of the roles and resources entrusted to them, working together for the greater good of society.
Servant Leaders are visionary. They intuitively exercise foresight by understanding lessons from the past, realities of the present, and the likely consequences of decisions in the future. They nurture their abilities to dream great dreams, while balancing the day-to-day situations. Servant Leaders enlist others in their dreams by vividly communicating the picture, helping others see the exciting possibilities, and creating a shared vision.
Servant Leadership is a powerful way to lead others and build God’s kingdom. It creates an environment in which leaders, followers, and their organizations can thrive.