Servant Leadership Styles for Your Organization
How do you encourage servant leadership styles within your organization, business or congregation?
I recently pulled a book out of my library entitled Leading Edge by Robert Dale. While scanning through the book I came across a section in chapter 2 entitled the “Seduction of Power.”
Power Over Servanthood
Dale points out one of the temptations of Jesus as a lesson in dealing with leadership power over servant leadership. In the Gospel account of Matthew Christ was urged to bow down to Satan and become ruler of all the kingdoms of the world.
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:1-11)
This temptation of Jesus set the stage for Jesus’ ministry on earth. What Jesus said in just a few words is the foundation for servant leadership.
Jesus had the ability to do anything he wished to do. However, when he was tempted in the wilderness he made it clear to the Tempter that his intention was to “worship the Lord…and serve him only.”
Christ refused to let power override his role as a servant leader.
Compromising With Evil to Gain Power
Leaders are tempted on a regular basis to compromise to evil forces in order to reach their goals, power, or status. Chuck Lawless wrote,
Think about the bait that the Enemy offered Eve in the Garden. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil,” he said (Genesis 3:5) There apparently was (and is) something powerful about the promise of gaining knowledge, especially knowledge that someone else has but you do not. Knowledge gives us a sense of power and control. It is no wonder, then, that the writer of Proverbs describes the words of a gossip as “choice morsels” that stimulate a desire for more (Proverbs 18:8, NIV) (Dr. Chuck Lawless, Disciple Warriors, Kregel Publications)
Every person will have to make a choice about their place in life. Power can corrupt our ability to spiritually connect with God’s plan. The challenge to avoid being self-centered is one that has been around since the Garden of Eden.
The Behavior of Servant Leadership Styles
Many times leaders come to the conclusion that for success to take place shortcuts must be made. Moral goals cannot be accomplish by immoral behavior. So, what exactly is true servant leadership behavior all about?
Robert Dale shares this quote,
“Robert Greenleaf’s classic book, Servant Leadership opens with a powerful story. A group of persons are on a journey. Leo, a servant, accompanies the party and, while performing menial chores, sing songs and keeps the group’s spirits up. The trip goes well until Leo disappears. Then, the group falls into disarray …… The group simply cannot proceed without the servant Leo. One member of the group searches for years and at long last locates Leo. To his surprise, Leo, whom the searcher has only known as a servant, is actually the leader of the organization that sponsored the group’s journey in the first place.
The leader is servant first—-that’s the moral of Greenleaf story ………”
A Good Translation of Servant Leadership Styles
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes these words about becoming servant leadership styles,
When we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide to when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.
Consider the perspective of the slave. The Slave sees all of his life from the viewpoint of slavery. He does not see himself as possessing the same rights as free men and women. Please understand me, when slavery is involuntary it is cruel and dehumanizing. When the slavery is freely chosen, however, everything is changed. Voluntary servitude is a great joy.
The imagery of slavery may be difficult for us, but it was not hard for the apostle Paul. He frequently boasted of his slavery to Christ, making lavish use of the first century concept “Love slave” (that is, the slaves who come out of love, has freely chosen to remain a slave). We do our best to soften Paul’s language by translating the word “slave” as “servant.” But Whatever word we decide to use, let us be certain that we understand that Paul meant he had freely given up his rights.” (Richard J Foster, Celebration of Discipline, Pages 132-133
Servant Leadership Styles Are A Choice
Unlike the “servants” during the slave period in U.S. history, the type of slavery Paul was introducing to the early church was an action or choice. It was a practice of service that called for the one serving to
- show humility
- express grace
- deflate arrogance
- focus on the needs of others
- endure hardship
- walk away from insults
This type of behavior calls for a life that is willing to constantly grow. Servant leadership is a labor to God first, and next, his most loved creation, mankind.
This type of living, servant leadership, calls for a daily renewal of commitment. It is not always easy but it is always rewarding!