Is it possible to be a leader and a servant at the same time? To most people it would seem that these two words, servant leadership, are in opposition to one another. Is it possible to be a servant and a leader?
Some believe that the modern era of servant leadership was first introduced in 1970 in the article, The Servant as Leader, written by Robert Greenleaf. In this article he wrote:
“The servant leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
There are many people who think that these two words, leader and servant, are in contradiction one another. However, history has shown us that those who are the most powerful leaders have the ability to show the skills of a servant. Jesus Christ was one of the greatest examples of this.
To appreciate that these two words are not in contradiction with each other one must first have a clear understanding of the characteristics of a true servant.
Jesus said, ““Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28) According to Jesus, a true leader is a servant. What does a servant-leader do? It can be noted that a servant-leader seeks to:
- Invest himself or herself into those around them.
- Demonstrate a willingness to give of themselves to help others.
- Encourage the personal growth of those they are leading over their personal desires and self-interests.
- Give of themselves in the constant development of others.
Christ came to give of himself. The call upon every Christian is to give of self not only in service to Jesus and the Kingdom of God, but to our fellow man, including those inside and outside the church.
The bottom line of being a servant and a leader is to show the character of Jesus in our behavior.