Seen on a sign outside a church in a nearby town…
“People aren’t in our way. They are on our path.”
Remember the old line? “it’s a dog eat dog world.”
Never saw a dog eat a dog. You?
But people? We’re not talking cannibalism here, but some people don’t have any problem stepping all over other people on their climb to “the top.” That’s consuming of a different kind.
Some billionaires, big time celebrities and politicians may know all about this. For too many of them, the rest of us are here to serve them.
When’s the last time you heard the idea of a “public servant?” Once upon a time it was an aspiration of those who took a government job. And not to broad brush an entire group of people – there may still be many actual public servants in taxpayer-funded employ. But today there are so MANY government jobs that the idea of being a public “servant” has perhaps disappeared.
Yet the idea of servant leadership is one that has stood the test of time. The question is – what is it exactly?
Do a web search of “servant leadership” and you get some interesting answers.
One website defines it as “a leadership style and philosophy whereby an individual interacts with others—either in a management or fellow employee capacity—to achieve authority rather than power.”
Not exactly liking that one. “Leadership style” sounds like some intentional strategy. And the goal is to achieve authority rather than power? In many cases those two are one and the same.
That sound like a servant to you?
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a different definition…
“Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader's main focus is the thriving of their company or organization.”
That one is closer to the mark. While the goal of any business is to thrive and be profitable, for servant leaders it’s not the only thing. Helping others in their time of need is a primary component, their leadership style.
Like so many other things on the Internet there are reams of websites with listings on servant leadership. The Top Ten this, the Top Eleven that. Benefits and disadvantages.
So let’s simplify on the idea of servant leadership. Let’s start with the person who was perhaps the first servant leader…
Jesus Christ. Interesting that you don’t see His name on most of those websites…
Sure, he’s the Son of God. Our Lord and Savior. He could do anything He wanted.
But instead He took the role of servant for much of His three year ministry…
- He healed the sick (too many Gospel examples to count, and that probably isn’t all of them.)
- He fed the hungry (remember the 5,000? The most famous use of fish and bread of all time.)
- He taught in synagogues and the Temple – and didn’t get a salary for any of it.
- He raised the dead (Lazarus, here’s to you.)
- He washed the feet of His disciples (humbling back then, still humbling today.)
- He was a good listener (like the Canaanite woman from Matthew 15 and the story of the crumbs to the dogs where Jesus changed course and healed her daughter.)
- He turned water into wine (and what, let the bride and groom to do their own refills? No way.)
Jesus was even on the lookout for the kids…
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. – Matthew 19:13-15 NIV
Oh, to be as innocent as little children again…
Do a thorough reading of the four Gospels. Find one instance where Christ ordered anything be given to Him, or made demands that some of today’s celebrities make. You’ll be searching in vain.
At the feeding of the 5,000 He could have asked for donations and many people would have gladly obeyed. Running out of wine at a wedding would have been a major embarrassment – it’s the same today (whaddya mean, the bar’s closed?) The Lord could have easily asked for a reimbursement and the families would have paid up.
And raising Lazarus from the dead? Seen what some doctors and hospitals charge today for any major medical procedure? Bringing someone back from the dead – that’s a reimbursement even insurance companies couldn’t cover.
Three years of this – it was Jesus’ leadership style while kings, emperors, generals and high priests did the exact opposite. Did it work? Well, can you recall the names of many of those kings, emperors, generals and high priests?
Didn’t think so. The leadership of Christ will be renowned forever. All because He served His fellow men and women, instead of being served.
So how do we convince so many of today’s so-called leaders to emulate Him? Can we use the trendy language of today?
- Read a top leadership book (in this case The Bible, best one of them all for wisdom and advice.)
- Go on a leadership retreat (and take a few of your associates with you to some place where serving others is the goal while not staying at a hotel, no room service, no comfortable bed.)
- Look people in the eye as you help them with a smile (not via email or text or phone or Zoom, do it the old fashioned way.)
- Don’t fly first class no matter how much money you have (sit with the commoners in coach and understand what it means to be a commoner)
If today’s wealthy and powerful would just try even one of those ideas above, it could lead to a major transformation of understanding between the haves and the have nots. That gulf between the two groups has only widened in recent years. True leadership needs to bridge that gulf before it becomes too far to cross.
On life’s journey there are many people on our path to wherever. We can push them aside or run over them, or we can help them to get a little farther on their own path while we continue our own journey.
Another old term comes to mind here – “lead by example”
Those leaders out there who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, who lead from the front, who partake last after everyone else has been served and even do the serving – those are leaders to follow.
The reward for that leadership? It may not be a big bank account or fame or stuff. Your reward will come much later – the greatest reward of all…
From George Churchgoer