“Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” ~ Jesus (Mark 10)
What does Servant Leadership really mean? Christ demonstrated it. It’s in His nature. The more we commune with Christ, the more like Him we become.
- Help people succeed both individually and professionally.
- Serve those they are responsible for and those they are responsible to.
6 Life Lessons About Serving as We Lead
1. Servant Leadership works in any type of organization.
Serving others as we lead is what Servant Leadership is all about. When organizations have a CEO, CFO, president, or pastor at the top — with managers, pastors, and others under them — Servant Leaders turn the organizational chart upside down. They serve the associate pastors, high-level executives, and managers. The managers in turn serve the employees, and the employees serve the customers or parishioners.
"How can you serve your customers with excellence when your employees are serving the CEO, instead?" ~ Ken Blanchard
2. Don’t let other people set your leadership style for you.
Many have experienced changes in leadership, and learned very quickly that all leaders have different personalities and different management styles. Staff members and others typically develop a leadership style similar to their leader. At times, we’re in a position where our leader’s style impacts the organization or church in unhealthy ways. Often a senior leader is the opposite of a Servant Leader. If we’re Servant Leaders ourselves, we can decide to follow a different leadership style than that of the boss. It’s important to hold true to our own leadership style.
Don’t let influencers change you. You change the influencers.
3. Your organizational culture is very important.
This pertains to the culture your church leaders or organizational leaders value and try to create. Your culture must be defined and understood starting from the pastor(s) or upper management all the way through to the employees, and the congregation, etc. Even the children’s and youth pastors need to be teaching and reinforcing it (at the level of their students) along with the other leaders. More than the product, it’s the people involved who sell it, service it, manage it, talk to you about it, help you answer questions pertaining to it, etc. Your culture is very important, and it makes a big difference. It’s often what brings the church attender or customer back again and again.
4. Leadership teams are important.
Understand that you are working with two different dynamics. You have the vertical and the horizontal. The vertical is your management team: the CEO, the pastor, the VPs of sales, marketing, human resources, the associate pastors, those in charge of departments or committees and all the various disciplines in your church have different roles in the organization.
Horizontal is what you’re doing: the organization's goals and values. Too many times, people start worrying about their vertical position—the status of their particular department or getting promoted—and forget about the horizontal purpose. Each department has its problems and responsibilities until few are focused on the customer. The whole idea of the enterprise is to help people accept Jesus and grow to be more like Him . . . and also to keep your customers or parishioners, and grow the employees, etc.
So, what’s the answer? Whatever you do in Servant Leadership, each department has to support the mission you’re trying to accomplish. The more you communicate with and serve your employees and constituents, the more success you will experience – almost automatically. But if you have your organization set up where you are dictating to people down the line, the people will go into vertical mode and forget about the horizontal purposes.
5. Pay attention so that you’re self-aware.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. There’s only one person who has ever walked this life who was perfect, and that was Christ. We’re not in that category, so we need to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses.
Take time to reflect on them. Get feedback from your staff, a mentor, and/or a good friend. Ask God to show you your blind spots. Becoming aware of your blind spots can help you serve people better. It’s a valuable part of being a Servant Leader.
6. Do the right thing.
A Servant Leader doesn’t mean just being nice and handling things with “kid gloves.” Look at Christ; He displayed tough love when he threw the moneychangers out of the temple. Servant Leadership means you do the right thing even if it’s hard and uncomfortable. You will probably know what decision needs to be made, so always make the right decision. A Servant Leader knows the importance of taking care of the three largest and most important constituencies: the leadership team, the employees, and the customers/congregation. In a church, the congregation and staff know how well you do this, and it will directly affect how well or how poorly your church/company will perform.
Servant Leaders are not always perfect, but . . .
- They stay true to their leadership style (what works for them).
- They stay humble by turning the organizational chart upside down and serving others.
- They communicate the goals and values that form their culture.
- They become aware of their strengths and weaknesses through feedback and following Christ, who was the greatest Servant Leader of all time.
- They continually try to “just do the right thing.”
Always know that I am . . .
Your Friend and Servant in Christ,
Wayde Goodall, D.Min.
Dean, College of Ministry