Servant Leadership – Practical steps to take toward servant leadership (5 of 6)
January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
Practical steps to take toward servant leadership
In your endeavor to be a servant leader, you should seek to increase your sensitivity to issues of pride. Start to be aware of the things you do as a leader in your business or in your home; pay special attention to situations in which you are more concerned about promoting yourself than serving others (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 30). Ask yourself and those who are under your leadership how you can best serve them in given situations.
To be a servant leader, it is necessary to regard people’s development and their performance as equally important. This goes against the western-world model of efficiency at all costs; instead, it involves a model that can be characterized by effectiveness—this can be gauged in the means and the end to vision and mission fulfillment.
A servant leader must seek to know his target audience. In business these persons would be referred to as consumers or customers; however, the point is that each person or entity has a ‘customer’ so to speak. It is important to get to know and understand these people in order to best serve them.
Servant leadership also involves training up those who will lead after us. Jesus invested his time and effort into twelve men; he poured his life into the disciples who in turn soaked up his teaching and exemplar living. Blanchard and Hodges note, “As we seek to leave a legacy of servant leadership behind when our own season of leadership is finished, we can do so modeling our values and investing our time in developing others” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003 68). In fact one’s impact as a leader can be aptly measured by the legacy he leaves behind and by looking at the followers-become-leaders that he leaves in his wake.
Another key element to servant leadership is termed by Blanchard and Hodges as “performance coach”. “A key activity of an effective servant leader is to act as a performance coach. When Jesus called them to follow Him, He pledged to the disciples His full support and guidance as they developed into “fishers of men.” This is the duty of a servant leader—the ongoing investment of the leader’s life into the lives of those who follow. By changing His leadership style appropriately as His disciples developed individually and as a group, Jesus empowered His followers to carry on after He was gone. Through his hands (effective leader behavior) He was able to transmit what was in His heart and head about servant leadership” (Blanchard 2003, 83).
“Daily recalibration” is another point of servant leadership that Blanchard and Hodges bring out. “On a daily basis,” they say, “effective servant leaders recalibrate their commitment to their vision—purpose, picture of the future, and values—through the use of five disciplines that were an integral part of what Jesus practiced during His earthly walk: 1) Solitude—spending time alone with God, 2) Prayer—speaking with God, 3) Storing up God’s word—preparing for the challenges that were yet to come, 4) Faith in God’s unconditional love—proceeding with confidence grounded in trust, and 5) Involvement in accountability relationships—sharing His vulnerability” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 85-86). Christ modeled each of these five disciplines for us during his life here on earth. Our servant leadership will directly flow out of our personal disciplines and time spent with God. Christ’s character was what it was because he was in communion with God; this is true for us also. We have to be connected to the Master in order to live the life that he would have us to live. Our connectness to Him bears directly on our thoughts, actions, words and deeds—thus, it affects our leadership.
Specifically, we see the importance of solitude modeled by Jesus in his time spent in the wilderness in preparation for his public ministry. He was going to have many tests and trials in his leadership role and this demanded extended time with the Father and away from other people. His wilderness trials and meditation built him up for ministry and helped him to gain strength in God.
Jesus also models for us the importance of prayer and even instructs his disciples in prayer: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).
Paul speaks in his pastoral epistles about the usefulness of scripture:
“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Believers must store up the word of God in their hearts to combat the trials and the temptations with which they are confronted and to claim the promises of God therein. This is one material tool with spiritual significance and power that God has given us to use in battle against satan and the powers of this world.
Jesus also most perfectly exemplifies the fourth discipline of unconditional love:
“Jesus set the standard for us on unconditional love. It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 97).
For the servant leader, unconditional love involves accepting the unconditional love of God, and, to in turn unconditionally love those around us. Romans 5:8 tells us of God’s great love for us in sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. God’s love is not determined by our performance or actions; it is unconditional in every sense of the word. “Servant leaders,” notes Blanchard, “understand that everyone needs to be heard, praised, encouraged, forgiven, accepted and guided back to the right path when they drift off course. As leaders, we need to practice these behaviors. Why? Because Jesus did” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 99).
The last of the five disciplines listed above, involvement in accountability relationships can be noted in Jesus relationship with Peter, James and John. He had confidence in this inner circle of friends; he was built up and blessed by these relationships. Other scriptures that point us to accountability are found in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes:
Two are better than one. Because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up….though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).