Servant Leadership: Inspiring People & Transforming Organizations
What would happen in our world—our businesses, our governments, our churches, our schools, our non-profit organizations, our homes—if leaders embraced the opportunity they have every day to impact people and influence positive change? Great things would happen. People would focus more on others and less on themselves. The work environment would become a healthy and vibrant place that brings out the best in people. Ultimately, lives would be changed and the world around us would be a better place.
So, if that’s true, then why does this question have to be posed as a hypothetical? Shouldn’t all leaders aspire to make a positive difference, no matter how big or small? Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are many leaders who do not see leadership as an opportunity to impact lives, workplaces, and communities because they have lost sight of what leadership is all about in the first place.
Why is this? I think it’s because too many leaders mistakenly place their focus on position over people, power over principle, and profit over purpose. As a result, leadership becomes all about them and what they can gain. These leaders are what we call “self-serving” leaders. The lens through which they view the world has them at the center, and their personal success is the measure by which they evaluate the worth of their life. Over time, their view of leadership becomes warped, and they develop an over-inflated view of self.
Contrast the self-serving leader with a different type of leader, one who focuses on people, principle, and purpose—the servant leader. We have no greater example of a servant leader than Jesus himself, who said, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NIV). Imagine that—the Savior of the world telling his followers that his priority was to serve others, not to have people serve him. What an example to emulate! If this was his approach to leading, shouldn’t it also be our approach?
You might be wondering how this applies to your role as a leader at your organization, or if it even applies at all. Well, look at this way. Jesus was speaking to his disciples—a group of 12 unknown and unqualified men, and he was ultimately preparing them to lead his church once he was gone. Fast forward over 2,000 years and look what exists today—a worldwide movement that has changed the course of history and impacted lives for eternity. I think it is clear that Christ knew what he was doing when he said, “Not so with you. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26, NIV). As Jesus demonstrated, servant leaders can inspire ordinary people to do great things and ultimately, transform organizations and communities.
So the lesson here, for all of us, is that we have the unique opportunity to lead in a way that makes a positive difference and lasting impact in this world. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want to do with my life. We have to be careful though. The pull of the world is strong, and temptations surround us every day. It is very easy to get off course and become a self-serving leader if we do not guard our hearts and keep our focus on that which is important.
In order to help you in this pursuit of becoming a leader that focuses on people, principle, and purpose, I have developed a list of seven key behaviors that distinguish servant leaders from self-serving leaders. In the coming weeks, I will be examining each of these behaviors in detail to provide you with some action steps for taking your leadership to a new level so that you can inspire the people you lead and transform the organization that has been entrusted to you.
Until then, ponder the following question as you examine your own motivations for leading. Do you consider yourself a servant leader who focuses on people, principle, and purpose first and foremost, or are you a self-serving leader who is only concerned with position, power, and profit over everything else? Reflect on that today.
Written by Jeremy Couch
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