If serving is beneath you, then leading is above you. —Pastor Paul Daugherty
At a leadership conference several years ago, I heard popular speaker and author Patrick Lencioni speak about his then-new book, The Motive. He commented that he wanted to speak about servant leadership, but then he said, “but is there any other kind?” His point was that true leadership is always servant leadership at its core.
Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant leadership” in his 1977 book by that title, and it began to be used throughout the corporate world. But the idea of servant leadership goes much further back than Greenleaf; it goes back to Jesus.
You might not be a person of faith; you don’t have to stop reading now. Understand that I am, and that’s where I’m coming from. As you will hear from me often, I believe you can learn from anyone, and I’d encourage you to listen respectfully, even to those you might feel you disagree with. I’ve been listening to leaders I disagree with for many years – that’s one of the ways I grow!
Jesus was teaching his disciples a lesson about leadership at one point, and he told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” (Matthew 20:25-26 NIV)
He tells them, “you’ve seen how most leaders act – they lord over the people they lead! They act all high and mighty, like the leader is there to be served, and if you don’t serve them, you’re out!” And then he tells them four words that changed their view of what leadership was.
Not so with you.
YOU are to lead differently. YOU are to lead as a servant, thinking of what is best for those you lead, not yourself.
This was SUPER counter-cultural for that day. No one thought like this. No one taught like this.
Interestingly, it’s pretty counter-cultural for our day too.
Servant leadership has been in the “leadership vocabulary” for decades now. But self-centered leadership still exists, doesn’t it?
Maybe you’ve seen it this month. Maybe you’ve experienced it.
To choose to serve others is a mark of a great leader. I’ve seen it over and over. Jim Collins, in his books Built to Last and Good to Great, notes that level 5 leaders (the highest level) are marked by indomitable will and personal humility. They’re not self-serving. They serve those they lead.
Is there any other kind of leadership?
Not that I want any part of.