Servant Leadership

A few years ago, I participated in a church planter assessment that required all of the candidates to participate in case studies and hypothetical situations. After each session, each participant would fill out a sheet of paper where they would write down who took the primary leadership role, who was the most help, who was the least helpful, etc.

The last box on the sheet was “Who displayed servant leadership the best?”

Doing my best to display humility, I never wrote my own name in that box. I felt that would come across poorly, so I consistently looked for someone else to write down.

Later, while relaying the result of that assessment (not recommended to plant at this time), I was told that this fact had a large influence over that assessment. After all, if I never considered myself to be a servant leader, why would anyone else?

I suppose the reality of the situation (besides my getting caught up in trying to display my humility) was that I truly had no concept as to what servant leadership is about. I know that Jesus modeled it washing the disciples feet, and that you’re supposed to turn some triangle upside-down, but what does that really look like for a leader?

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I was listening to a Dave Ramsey seminar when he made this statement:

Part of serving someone well, is to lead them.

And that’s when it began to click for me.

What if servant leadership isn’t about our actions as much as our posture?

What if it’s less about turning some triangle of authority upside-down as much as it’s about leading from the point for the good of those you lead? What if it’s about caring enough about the people under your care that you lead for their benefit rather than a mission statement?

In fact, wasn’t that what Jesus modeled? Did he wash his disciples feet in order to place them in authority over himself?
Absolutely not.

Instead, he humbled himself and made their needs his own.

In fact, as we think about it, that’s what the incarnation is all about.

God never placed us in authority over himself. Instead, he delights in displaying his goodness and sovereignty by his care of us.

Maybe our role as pastors then, isn’t to be subservient to those we shepherd – giving them the authority to direct themselves – but to actually shepherd and care for their souls rather than our own agendas.

How do you define “servant leadership?”

  1 comment for “Servant Leadership

  1. Darrell
    8 April 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Great post and great thoughts. I think “Servant Leadership” is something we need to kick around a little more and try to define more clearly (as you have done here). I was just telling my wife this evening that it really bothers me that we have such a “leadership cult” that exist in the church today. I wish there was much more discussion about “servant” leadership and “spiritual” leadership.

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