Leading with Love
Perspectives on Servant Leadership
“So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant….” Mark 10:42-43 (New Living Translation)
Unlike many leadership approaches with a top-down, command and control style, servant leadership emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the individual is a servant first, making a conscious decision to lead in order to better serve others, not to increase one’s own power. The objective is to enhance the growth of individuals and to increase teamwork and personal involvement.
Servant leadership is transformational through the strength of purpose and values. Rather than being preoccupied with power, servant leaders focus on instilling purpose and shaping values. In the words of political scientist James MacGregor Burns, “Transforming leadership is dynamic leadership in the sense that the leaders throw themselves into a relationship with followers who will feel ‘elevated’ by it and often become more active themselves, thereby creating new cadres of leaders.”
In their book Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges remind us that, “Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader.”
Stephen Covey says the concept of servant leadership is a principle, a natural law, “something at the soul of an organization that does not change that will enable people to live with change.” This unchanging core is focused on the four basic needs of life – physical, social, mental, and spiritual.
Principles of Servant Leadership
- Servant leadership is rooted in the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. It is a way of being rather than a position of status. Its hallmarks are integrity, trust, vision, passion, compassion, empathy, daring, and humility.
- Servant leadership is shared. The real strength of leadership is not simply in one individual; it is in the group. An individual who is a follower in one circumstance may exercise influence to become a leader in another. The organization is also the servant.
- Leadership and followership are integral. We are all followers. Followers often exercise leadership. Excellence of skills in both leadership and followership are equally important.
- The concept of servant leadership does not imply that rules, hierarchy, or structure should be abolished. What changes are the roles of servant leaders; they still lead but in a different way.
- Servant leadership is a gift of grace, charisma, given by God to many people and realized more fully as each one develops leadership wisdom and skills.
- Servant leadership requires lifelong discipleship; an unending journey of personal discovery and development that results in constant learning and continuous improvement.
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©2016 Don Eastman