Servant Leadership: Principles
“Leadership: Putting Yourself in the Picture” (SL#17)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:1- Exploring the Journey

One of the principles of exploring servant leadership is personal, intentional, consistent participation in the whole development process. Explore what you already know and experience about leadership--and, of course, servant leadership. That is what is meant by “putting yourself in the picture.” Walk around “leadership,” looking at it from different sides and angles, inside and out, as you would if examining any structure. The more carefully you observe the structure, the more clearly you see what it actually is as a whole. Or, when you return from a journey, you may spend some time looking at pictures of scenes and events that made up the happening, recalling the experienced reality.

So as you move through this “leadership gallery” in this article, step over into the picture of your life and specific service or leadership situations. Such an exercise draws conceptual input from this article, but more so, calls for reflections on your part. Here's how it works.You will be shown a graphic requesting you to recall what element of your leadership it brings to mind. How could you serve? How do you lead? Before you are finished, you may have affirmed several strengths about yourself as well as discover new possibilities for effectiveness and satisfaction.

  1. Do you have a “heart for leadership”?
    The New Testament word “heart” has several meanings, including the innermost center of a person, the feeling, willing, deciding capacity of being. “A Heart for leadership” could be reflected in several ways.Your leadership reflection:
    • An inner sense of wholeness?
    • An intentional choice to lead?
    • An enduring passion for service?
    • A “heart-felt” love for people?
    • The capacity for hard work?

  2. How is leadership like a lighthouse?
    Most often on coastal shores, the lighthouse sends its beam of light across waters to warn of
    danger and to mark a safe-water entrance into the harbor. Your leadership reflection:
    • Warns of danger, a cause of shipwreck?
    • Persistent help in difficult times?
    • Serves by its light, if it is seen and heeded?
    • Other____________________________?

  3. How is leadership like a bridge?
    A bridge spans some chasm of water or terrain, making it possible to cross from one side
    to the other. Your leadership reflection:
    • Every part of the structure is essential?
    • The components of the bridge are interdependent?
    • Must have strength and be flexible?
    • Joins the two shores, completes the journey?
    • Bears traffic and payload in both directions?
    • Other_____________________________?

  4. As a leader, do you serve as a compass?
    An instrument for showing the North so that you can steer your course in any chosen
    direction, or find your way from an uncertain place. Your leadership reflection:
    • Helpful in new territory?
    • Reliable tool, like vision?
    • Sets out many choices?
    • Indicates a clear direction?
    • Other____________________?

  5. When is leadership like a roadmap?
    Based on surveys and measurements, a map presents routes, direction, and distance,
    within and between established locations. Your leadership reflection:
    • Relies on the mapmaker, on previous knowledge?
    • Learns from others if you pay attention?
    • Establishes the whole and its related parts?
    • Other________________________________?

  6. How does leadership fit into “group life”?
    A group functions based on the relationship and participation of individual members, often
    moving toward common objectives. Your leadership reflection:
    • Relationships and interdependence?
    • Changing roles, with or without position?
    • Multiple gifts and experience strengthen the whole?
    • Other_____________________________?

  7. Just, how strong is your leadership chain?
    It has long been said: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Is that true of you and
    your leadership team? Who else in your circle of influence? Your leadership reflection:
    • A chain is crafted, link by link?
    • Interdependency in a prominent lesson?
    • Accountability, one to another?
    • Weight-bearing, usually has a specific purpose?
    • Other________________________________?

  8. How is leadership like team-rowing a boat?
    Although we may not have personally experienced team-rowing, we have seen the images
    of others doing so, each person performing as part of the whole. Your leadership reflection:
    • Each one has a task?
    • Each task is important?
    • Needs to work together, even the coxswain who does not row at all?
    • Other:_______________________________?

  9. Is leadership ever like white-water rafting?
    My son and I went white-water rafting, hopefully my only time ever to do so. We were
    told to follow five simple instructions: “Row!” “Row right!” “Row left!” “Row like crazy!”
    and “Rest!” We did that, with all sorts of heroic and pitiful outcomes. Is leadership ever,
    or even regularly like that? Your leadership reflections:
    • Importance of team effort?
    • Timing is everything to success?
    • Leadership has risk?
    • Surprises and challenges?
    • Rigorous effort is required?
    • Other________________________________?

  10. Other leadership pictures/symbols?
    Of course there are many other images that could be used to portray leadership. You have
    your own, don’t you? A completely different way to portray leadership styles has been to
    select animals with diverse characteristics--but that’s another area of study. For now, what
    helps you most to understand just what leadership is?
    Your picture/s?___________________________________________________

Closing Reflections:
When I think about my experiences of leadership, I see myself in different pictures given, changing leadership situations. All of the images of leadership seem to be valid. But perhaps the “bridge concept” is how I picture myself most often and comfortably. You may want to add other pictures that are most meaningful to you. After you have given thought to the visual concepts of leadership, you may see that it has opened new insights into your own behavior and experience.

- Reflect on each graphic so that you visualize elements of leadership, of servant leadership.
- How will this add to your understanding of changing situations and leadership needs?
- What types of servant leaders do you work with? Are they flexible and effective?
- Are your co-workers aware of the styles and skills available to them?

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership