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What is Servant Leadership?

Servant Leaders understand that we are here to serve one another.

Think of the leaders in your life,  your work, your community, our Government. Are they Servant Leaders, or Self Serving Leaders?

Abraham Lincoln

While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he published in 1970 in which he stated:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. That then by conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. A Servant Leader is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.” “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, 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?“.

Servant leadership is not a new concept but an ancient understanding. There are passages that relate to servant leadership as far back as 500 BCE in the Tao Te Ching.

The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware. Next comes one whom they love and praise. Next comes one whom they fear. Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

  There are many passages in the bible to Servant Leadership. I have included 10 here for thought.

1. Treat all equally

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

2. Help all not just those who agree with you.

 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? (Matthew 5:43-47)

3. Stay focused on the moment

 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)

4.  Love God and your fellow-man

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”(Matthew 22:36-40)

5. Be a Servant leader, not a leader with servants

“But Jesus called them [his disciples] to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

 6. We are not here to simply make a living; but to help the living

 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

7. Know where to focus

“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

8.  Love is the mark of a Servant Leader

 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.(John 3:16-17)

9. Be persistent and optimistic

 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

10. Believe and have faith in the unseen, more than the seen

Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64)

 Question: Have you looked inside your heart lately? Are you following your special path, and helping others with your special talents?

“We are not here merely to make a living but to be of service to others. We are here to create a better world, and carry within our hearts a vision of a greater   tomorrow. We impoverish our selves and others if we get caught up in the day-to-day challenges, and forget our purpose and mission here”.  Stephen C  Monahan, President – Georgia Institute for Non Profit Leadership

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Georgia Institute for Non Profit Leadership Atlanta, Georgia Stephen C Monahan, President www.GINPL.org SteveGeorgiaInstitute@gmail.com
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