January 31, 2012 § Leave a comment
In essence, being a servant leader is aligning oneself with the leadership example of Jesus Christ. We must seek to emulate him. Our service to others must precede our leadership roles. One must follow before he can lead. Christ’s model is others-centered; he expects us to be likewise in thinking of ourselves less and less—i.e. dying to self—and embracing an outward focus that seeks to serve. This is what being a follower of Jesus Christ is like: we must seek to be like him. And, in all we do we must reflect the teaching of Paul in Colossians 3:23-24:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord you are serving.”
By: Melanie Case
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).
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.
January 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
In discussing the vision and the core values, it is important to note a conclusion that may be obvious: a servant leader—through clear explication of core values, mission and vision makes his expectations and intentions known up front. After doing so, he will equip his team of followers with what they need to succeed in reaching their unified mission. He will serve them by helping them understand as fully as possible the goals that lay ahead and, together, they will work to accomplish success in these areas. In addition, he will better serve them by taking questions, constructive criticisms and the like in order to assure understanding on the part of the followers. This will necessarily require humility from the leader, as pride puffs up and does not allow questioning or criticism.
As touched on above, while it is fine and even healthy to look to the main leader for the visionary aspect of leadership, it is not healthy to expect total implementation from this one person at the top of the hierarchical ladder. A model of servant leadership will not take such a hierarchical approach. Why? Such an approach is fostered by general ignorance on the part of the following body. The true servant leader’s team will be part of the game, not mere spectators. Such a leader will seek to educate, inform and clearly communicate core values, mission and vision to his followers so that they take ownership in their mission and vision as a cooperating community or corporation. They will have more than minimal interest vested in their mission; they will own it for themselves, seeking to serve those parallel to them, under and above them, and those outside of their team—perhaps their customers or audience in the business sense. In short, implementation of the vision must occur at all levels of an association, community or corporation for the servant leadership model to be authentic and successful. Blanchard and Hodges have the following remarks on this subject:
Effective implementation requires turning the hierarchy upside down so the customer contact people are at the top of the organization and are able to respond to customers, while leaders serve the needs of employees, helping them to accomplish the vision and direction of the organization. That’s what Jesus had in mind when He washed the feet of the disciples (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 54).
As noted above, servant leadership has its beginning in a clear vision. Its end then is in a servant heart that aids people in living and acting according to that vision. Christ is our prototype here: he walked alongside his disciples, helping them to understand and live out the vision he cast before them. Jesus’ heart was in the right place. He was leading not out of self-interest, but out of an attitude of service. The apostle Paul instructs the believers in Philippi in this area of the heart:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).
Our motivation must not be self-serving. Self-interest looks at the situations in one’s life as propositional; such a person always wonders what is in it for them and how they will gain the most benefit. Now, we will look closer at this paradox of self-serving versus servant leadership.
January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
Importance of Vision and Core Values
There are two parts of leadership that Jesus clearly exemplified: a visionary role which involves doing the right thing and an implementation role, involving doing things right (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 44).
Servant leadership begins with a clear and compelling vision of the future that excites passion in the leader and commitment in those who follow (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 45). The vision then is pivotal to starting off on the right foot. Once the leader has a vision, he must seek to share that vision with those around him and especially with his followers. He serves them well by communicating his passion to them verbally, visually, and experientially, etc. Followers who can see that their leader knows where they are going as a team and can even taste of this vision for themselves are much more likely to be involved and engaged in every step of a given process or program. Followers will often lead like those whom they follow if their example is a positive one; regrettably those with a poor leadership example will also often lead as they have been led. Servant leadership is something people will wish to emulate as it benefits all parties involved, creating a space for ministry to take place in any and every context. Clarity of vision and understanding of mission and core passions on the part of all involved parties is critical to success as a leader or team member. As noted by Blanchard and Hodges, “When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, He was transitioning His focus from the visionary/direction part of leadership to the implementation role. As He did that, He was not implying that they should go out and help people do anything they wanted. The vision was clear. He got it from the top of the hierarchy—His Father. As “fishers of men” they were to “go make disciples of all nations…” focusing on first loving God and then their neighbors. When it came to implementing this vision, He wanted them to be servant leaders and help people pass “the final exam” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 53).1
As noted above, clearly defined core values are imperative to effective servant leadership. Jesus clearly states core values not only for himself, but for his followers in Matthew 22:37-40:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
All of our words and actions as followers of Christ must spring from these core values of first loving God and then loving our neighbor. This is not just a tolerance, but Jesus’ command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and to love your God with your entirety—heart, mind and soul. This is the starting point for us as servants of Christ and as servant leaders: love must be the rule of our lives.
Blanchard and Hodges assert: “True success in servant leadership depends on how clearly values are defined, ordered, and lived by the leader. Jesus lived His values of love of God and love of His neighbor all the way to the cross” (Blanchard and Hodges 2003, 51). No greater love has any man than to lay down His life for His friends. (John 15:13).
1 By “the final exam”, Blanchard and Hodges mean a time when we will stand before God and answer two questions: What did you do with Jesus? And What did you do with the resources you were given in life? The clear mandate of Christ to his followers is to prepare people—disciples—who will pass this “final exam” with a grade of “A” (52-53).
January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
So, when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:3-5, 12-17).
The above passage from John shows us a picture of Jesus, the perfect example of leading as an act of service.
When we speak of servant leadership we are referring to the very model of leadership of Jesus, whose life is a continual example of what it means to be a servant leader. Without fail, he seeks to serve those around him. He leads by example. He gives his disciples a clear vision and understanding of his mission. He equips them to work toward fulfillment of the mission. In Matthew 20:25-28 the text reads:
“But Jesus called them to himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Jesus’ words here are paradigmatic: he intends for his followers to model his very life. He lives to serve those around him: he provides the ultimate example of sacrifice in giving his life for his people—those the Father has given him. This sacrificial attitude embodies all of his words and actions. He embodies and epitomizes servant leadership. As servant leaders, then, we are to serve the vision that is given us by Christ himself—we are to serve those we seek to lead and, unlike the typical leadership model set by this world, we are to set a clear vision that is going to help the world. This necessarily means that in the process of striving to lead thus, such leaders may not be served by their followers in return. This is a chance we must be willing to take to emulate Christ who had no guarantee of reciprocity of the service he so readily gave. However, that being said, it is part of the mission and vision of Christ to make disciples who will in turn make disciples and who will serve those they seek to lead, following the example you have placed before them. A follower can only be as much of a servant as the leader he imitates. This is important to remember as the ultimate responsibility for the action of the follower lies with the leader: if there is a problem with a follower, the leader needs to first evaluate his leadership in pursuit of the root of the problem. It is likely that he is not modeling Christ’s example of servant leadership, and thus fostering such in his followers.
In their work Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges make clear that the single greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ. He is the one we are to emulate in leadership. All others will fall short, but Christ’s life stands flawless. They say:
“In His instructions to His first disciples on how they were to lead, Jesus sent a clear message to all those who would follow Him that leadership was to be first and foremost an act of service. No Plan B was implied or offered in His words. He placed no restrictions or limitations of time, place or situation that would allow us to exempt ourselves from His command. For a follower of Jesus, servant leadership isn’t just an option; it’s a mandate” (Blanchard and Hodges 2005, 12).
July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
- Entitled “Associations, Creeds, and Calvinism”, this chapter speaks of just those things. Wills discusses the development of associations between churches that held similar creeds which were, much of the time based on Calvinist views.
- As stated above, Wills develops his discussion of associations first and foremost and then goes on to discuss the autonomy of the local church. Associations, it seems, were very strict when it came to a fellow church’s creed. Calvinism or the lack thereof (i.e. Arianism) were very important; these views and doctrinal principles allowed or disallowed churches to be in association with one another. There was a sort of interchurch discipline going on; although everyone stood for the autonomy of the local church, they seemingly chastised a congregation by disallowing them to be part of their association if they held differing views on election and the perseverance of the saints, etc. Explaining further the importance of creeds, Wills explains that they were seen as a means of unanimity. The Baptists, said by many to be a ‘creedless’ denomination, did indeed have creeds/confessions, but held that Scripture had the only true authority.
- I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to find that I was in agreement with the Baptists this time! Throughout the book I have found myself huffing and puffing at the mindless and heartless actions executed and beliefs held by my Baptist predecessors; however, I found it nice to hear that the Bible has long since been held as the only authority.
- A lesson learned in the heretofore chapter concerns creeds and the mere setting forth of what one believes. The Baptists of the past were very ardent in stating that they had no creed other than the Bible (although Wills goes on to say that Baptists endorsed creeds later on and saw them as necessary to provision of purity). This caused warring amongst fellow Christians that could have verily been avoided. Thus, in future ministry, I hope to lay aside all pride and stubbornness and to simply explain why I believe what I believe, to be honest in so doing, and to respect others (of Christian denominations in particular) for doing as they see fit in similar respect.
- In discussion of the transformation of the way that Baptists ‘did’ religion, Wills mentions at length the decline of discipline and other noteworthy changes that took place thus.
- It seems that the clearest identifying factor of change in the churches was the decline of discipline. Wills explains this briefly and goes on to discuss the drawbacks and obvious disadvantages to church discipline; he explains how it was never a practice that was loved by the congregation, but was simply kept up out of necessity in maintaining purity and the cause of Christ. He then relates a lengthy discourse on dancing and other worldly amusements. It seems that the laxity of disciplining dancers was a main indicator in that discipline was falling by the wayside. This lack of discipline was spurred on by the growth of the church attributed to youth and younger members while those very members were the ones involved in the violation of dancing. Churches feared losing their young membership, and would rather allow a few offenses here and there than to do so. Wills develops his discussion of the transformation of democratic religion even further with an incorporation of urban religion. He then brings the reader to a point of resolve as he discusses the coming efficiency and progress and the new democratic religion.
- I found this chapter less surprising, and perhaps, in one sense, more settling to my soul. One thing that I did find surprising was the replacement of the pure church with the efficient church. This is somewhat puzzling to me as I feel that purity should come before efficiency. However, as Wills goes on to explain this notion, efficiency was seen in light of purity.
- At one point in this chapter, Wills relays that ‘fiddling and dancing had become so commonplace and popular in southern society that some members of the church believe them to be harmless’. That is a scary statement, don’t you think?!! I think it scary simply because it is essentially saying “if it is popular culture and an accepted part of our society, it should be condoned and tolerated of our membership. I find this appalling! What would this mean for us today?! Thoughts such as this one entirely changed the way that our Baptist predecessors executed discipline; they began to allow things to go undisciplined because modernity called them okay. Now, what I am not saying is that I think dancing and fiddling sinful. However, what I am saying is that I hope in future ministries and those I am currently a part of, that we never fail to evaluate everything on Biblical terms. Our society is not to be the ‘rule’ by which we live; Christ is!