Posts Tagged ‘Servant Leadership’

Stooping To HelpHave you ever seen a child instinctively help another child up when he falls? Do you recall a time when you immediately went to someone’s aid without having to stop and think about it simply because there was a need and you wanted to help? It seems like such a simple matter, but it appears that as we “mature” and find ourselves in different positions and roles in life, that willingness to stoop to help others lives in constant danger of being suppressed.

The attention of the world in recent days has been given to the new Pope Francis and especially his lifestyle of service, simplicity and humility through the years. Against the backdrop of world leaders often living in splendor while their countrymen suffer, such an attitude is, indeed, refreshing. Nobody is too good or too important to serve others.

While reading Nehemiah the last couple of days about the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall in the 5th century B.C., Nehemiah 3:5 jumped out at me. In the midst of a passage talking about the various groups that shared in the responsibility of rebuilding and repairing, we read: “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.”

Who would not stoop? The nobles. The work was being done by a vast number of people eager to do the work, to be part of a cause greater than themselves. Yet here was a group of people who considered themselves greater than the work. They considered it beneath them, yet it was the most significant work of that century for that people.

The problem with considering yourself too good to stoop to help others is that those who hold such an attitude are completely inaccurate in their self-assessment. They aren’t really too good or lofty to serve or help others – they just think they are. They are mistaken.

I am thankful for the example of everyday men and women, boys and girls, who care more about helping others than about maintaining some off-base inflated self-assessment of their importance. I am grateful for leaders who understand and practice servant leadership. I am humbled by people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and to live life in the trenches if that is where the need is found.

“But whoever must be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Jesus, Mark 10:43-45.

I’ve seen a lot of leaders in my years – some very good at leading and others only in positions of authority which they mistake as leadership. I don’t have much respect for those who use their positions to wield power to feed their enormous ego. On the other hand, I have great respect for those in positions of authority who choose to be humble, who desire to serve others and who generate a following not by demanding it, but by earning it.

According to the Wikipedia page on “Servant Leadership” in discussing Robert Greenleaf’s essay The Servant as Leader, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”

When I think of the hundreds of “leaders” I have encountered in business, I have encountered people from both ends of the spectrum. I work for a manager who knows his stuff, who is incredibly helpful, who may walk away from a one-on-one with more added to his to-do list than to mine, and who I am thankful to serve in part because of his willingness to serve others. On the other hand, I can easily point to others who think their position of authority gives them the right to demand the unreasonable, to demean those reporting to them in public, to yell at their subordinates and treat them like dogs. Which do you think will have the more loyal following? Obviously, the servant leader.

I believe the truth holds regardless of context, not just in business. I’ve seen church leaders span the gamut with the same effect. Anyone who thinks the principle doesn’t apply to spouses in the home hasn’t been married long or learned much along the way.

I am grateful for those in positions of authority who have learned and who demonstrate leap year lesson #43 – The best leaders are servants.