Servant Leadership – Self-serving Leader versus Servant Leader (4 of 6)

January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Self-serving Leader versus Servant Leader

“Whenever we have an opportunity or responsibility to influence the thinking and the behavior of others, the first choice we are called to make is whether to see the moment through the eyes of self-interest or for the benefit of those we are leading” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 15).

Blanchard and Hodges point out Jesus’ preparation to lead by pointing the reader to the passages of Matthew 3:13-17 and 4:1-11. Here we read about Jesus’ baptism by John and his temptation in the wilderness. In the first of these situations, and as noted by Blanchard, “Jesus demonstrated two very significant attributes of servant leadership. He validated and affirmed John in his ministry and submitted Himself to the same acts of surrender to doing the right thing that He would require of others. A servant leader never asks anyone to do something they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves” (2003, 24). In short, Jesus’ preparation to lead involved submission and character testing: this is the example of a servant leader Jesus gives us at the beginning of his ministry.

To examine your motivations as a leader, Blanchard and Hodges suggest asking yourself the following question: Do you seek to edge God out or exalt God only in the way you exert influence on those around you? The answer to that question reveals whether you are driven to protect and promote yourself or called to a higher purpose of service” (Blanchard and Hodges 2005, 42). Quoting Gordon McDonald, Blanchard and Hodges discuss the difference between driven people and called people:

Driven people think they own everything. They own their relationships, they own their possessions, and they own their positions. In fact, they perceive their identity as the sum of their relationships, possessions and positions. As a result, driven people spend most of their time protecting what they own. ….The possessions of driven people become an important expression of who they are and end up possessing them.

Called people, on the other hand, believe everything is on loan. They believe their relationships are on loan; they know that we have no guarantee we will see those we love tomorrow. Called people also believe their possessions are on loan and are to be held lightly, to be enjoyed and shared with an open hand. Finally, called people believe their positions are on loan from God and the people they are attempting to influence. Rather than protecting what they own, called leaders act as good stewards of what has been loaned to them” (Blanchard and Hodges 2005, 43).

These are obviously two very different approaches to leadership and to life in general. As truly devoted followers of Christ, Christians fall into the second of these two categories of people: we are called people. We need to act like it.

Summing up on this area of self-serving and servant leading, it will be helpful to note three behavior patterns that mark sharp distinctions between these two styles of leading: handling feedback, planning for succession, and roles of leading and following. A servant leader welcomes feedback, seeking to improve his service to those he seeks to impact and influence; contrarily, a self-serving leader will feel attacked when offered feedback or criticisms. A servant leader will plan for succession in instructing and preparing those who will one day take his place while a self-serving leader will reject the idea that he needs to delegate any responsibility or train anyone new; after all, he is the leader, right?! Finally, a servant leader realizes that God looks for servants who allow Him to be the leader, not leaders, per se. The self-serving leader insists that he is the leader and the one in control.


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You are currently reading Servant Leadership – Self-serving Leader versus Servant Leader (4 of 6) at Outside the Gate: Gospel & Organization.


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