Servant Leadership: Practices
“Content: Practicing Servant Leadership Today - Part 1” (SL#62)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:3 - Charting Your Course
“Charting Your Course” begins with an intentional choice and the continuous practice of servant leadership--or not! Just what is servant leadership--both its biblical and contemporary components? How does it relate to patterns and practices in congregational life? During recent years have you continued along a journey toward servant leadership? It’s really not a new journey because the path runs throughout the pages of Holy Scripture. Yet retracing old and favorite paths of service to Christ helps us stay on course--or when we stray, to get back on the pathway.
This working definition is a guideline for me, and I share it with you:
Practicing servant leadership in Christian ministry is self-giving service with others after the pattern of Christ through example and persuasion in order to achieve extraordinary commitment and contributions toward mutually shared kingdom goals. (L.E.--1995 and since)
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.--Phil. 3:13-14
Years ago I started with the oft-quoted maxim adapted from Warren Bennis:
“efficiency [management] is doing things right”
“effectiveness [leadership] is doing the right things.”
Placing high value on these two elements and adding three others, the servant leadership graphic on these pages intends to portray the practice of servant leadership as five open windows of opportunity--of light and fresh air. The largest window, encompassing all else, is empowered leadership; the smallest window, supporting all else, is efficiency. All five practices work together reflecting a synergy that is true to the essence of the servant as leader. It makes for an exciting journey. Study carefully this visual (repeated from the introduction), beginning to assess key elements of your pattern of servant leadership as they compare to the graphic:
Glossary--empower: To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority. To equip or supply with an ability; to enable.
Usage Note: Although it is a contemporary buzzword, “empower” arose in the mid-17th century with the legalistic meaning “to invest with authority, to authorize.” Shortly thereafter it began to be used with an infinitive in a more general way meaning “to enable or permit.” These uses survive today, overpowered by its use in politics and pop psychology.
--from The American Heritage® Dictionary of English Language, Fourth Edition
We are to run this race “with no eyes for any one or anything except Jesus” (Moffatt, in loc.). It is he toward whom we run. There must be no divided attention. The “author and perfecter of faith” (there is no “our” in the Gr.) may mean that Jesus trod the way of faith first and brought it to completion. Or it may mean that he originated his people’s faith and will bring it to its perfection.--Zondervan Commentary
John 15:9 - Love is the relationship that unites the disciples to Christ as branches are united to a vine. Two results stem from this relationship: obedience and joy. Obedience marks the cause of their fruitfulness; joy is its result.--Zondervan Commentary
John 2:6 - The uniqueness of Christian ethics comes again to the surface. Relationship to God requires moral behavior worthy of God. And as the revelation of God in Christ is accepted as the high point of divine self-disclosure, so the human life of Jesus becomes the measuring stick of true moral and ethical behavior.--Zondervan Commentary
John 15:5 - Fruitbearing is not only possible but certain if the branch remains in union with the vine. Uniformity of quantity and quality are not promised. But if the life of Christ permeates a disciple, fruit will be inevitable.--Zondervan Commentary
“Doing the right things for the right reasons.” Servant leadership asks and seeks to answer the ethical questions: “Why am I serving this way, or leading in that manner?” “What is the true motivation and outcome of my life and leadership?” “Am I following biblical character and principles?” In public and corporate life, ethical responsibility is so critical.
Glossary--ethical: Conforming to accepted standards of social or professional behavior; adhering to ethical and moral principles; “it seems ethical and right.”--WordNet ® 1.6 © 1997 Princeton University
“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”--Mark Twain
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, . . . --Matt. 5:43-44
Luke 6:31--Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Matt. 22:37-40--Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your 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.
Deut. 10:11-13--“Go,” the Lord said to me, “and lead the people on their way, so that they may enter and possess the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.--Micah 6:8
The best test is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?
--Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, pp. 13-14
“Doing the right things together.” Servant leadership builds relationships, enriches congregational fellowship, and develops the life and competence of fellow workers.
Glossary--enabling: To supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity; make able: techniques that enable surgeons to open and repair the heart. To make feasible or possible.--from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . .--Ephesians 4:11-12
Conclusion: The purpose of this article is to move toward the actual practice of servant leadership. This article introduces a servant leadership graphic and presents servant leadership practices #1-3; it is continued with practices #4 and 5 in the next article (SL#63).
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copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership